Lab Canada

New $2.6M research chair will focus on new food packaging

Montreal, QC – A new research chair has been established that will focus on the development of new food packaging materials. Called the NSERC/Saputo/Excel Pac Industrial Research Chair in Materials and films for safe, smart and sustainable (3S) packaging, the chair will have a total operating budget of $2.6 million over the next five years.

The new chairholder is Dr Abdellah Ajji, associate professor in Polytechnique Montreal’s Department of Chemical Engineering. Dr Ajji’s team’s research will be aimed at developing innovative multi-layer packaging that uses materials and films with functional properties for greater safety, possible detection of bacteria and the use of biodegradable materials.

“The expected spinoffs from our research will benefit Canadian companies as well as consumers,” says Dr Ajji. “They will benefit from greater competitiveness and safer packaging. Over the coming years, annual growth of about 5% to 6% is anticipated. This shows the importance of pushing the limits of research into higher-performance packaging.”

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) is contributing $1.25 million to the funding, while private-sector partners Saputo and Excel Pac are each contributing $625,000, with the Polytechnique contributing the rest.

Dr Ajji will work closely with a team of about 20 researchers, including two research associates, four postdoctoral fellows and 12 graduate students. The research team will use the partners’ facilities, including Polytechnique’s Centre de recherche en plasturgie et composites (Centre for Applied Research on Polymers and Composites – CREPEC) and Polynov Laboratory.

The researchers will focus on developing:

– safe and cost-effective packaging that has greater airtightness and anti-bacterial properties;
– “smart” packaging that incorporates means of detection;
– sustainable packaging using recyclable, biodegradable materials; and
– specific applications using multi-layer structures for pouches in which contents can be cooked.