Is the food processing industry poised to embrace nanocoatings?

Monday 31 May 2010

Nanocoatings on food processing equipment hold huge potential for boosting safety and performance but lingering doubts and cost concerns among industry players are hampering take up, said an expert

But one company that produces a nano-scale coating product said such barriers are “falling daily” as companies begin to embrace nanotech know-how.

So - while uncertainties still exist – to what extent is the food processing sector readying itself to accept the breakthroughs offered by nanocoatings?

Nanocoating potential
There is widespread acknowledgement among a host of industry experts that nanocoatings on processing machinery could help realise a step-change in food production. But - as with so much connected to nanotechnology - companies are waiting for others to go first and costs to fall.

“Nanocoatings can be applied to machinery to inhibit bacteria growth, which means they need less cleaning,” Kathy Groves, project manager of microscopy at Leatherhead Food Research told “They do not kill bacteria but prevent the microorganisms from adhering to surfaces.”

She added the resulting reduction in cleaning also cuts down on the need for detergents. The coatings could also be used on pipes and heat exchangers with a view to decreasing the build up of deposits on their surfaces – so called biofouling.

“Over time product residue builds up and the process has to be stopped to allow cleaning to take place. Clearly, use of nanocoatings means products would stick much less which would reduce the need for this, resulting in less downtime and more efficient maintenance,” said Groves. “There is real interest in the industry for this.”

The technology could also see nano-coated blades staying sharper for longer – once again increasing operating efficiency and cutting downtime.

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