HyperBioCoat project aims to develop a new bio-based and biodegradable coating for plastic packaging.

Today, fresh food as well as convenience food is sold in packages. Hygienic conditions, long shelf life and easy availability of these packed products account for our standard of living. However, this convenience contributes to environmental pollution in a significant way, as packaging is mainly achieved by plastic materials in this case.

Biodegradable packaging materials have been on the market for a long time. However, there are severe restrictions preventing their broad use in food packaging, as for several  applications these materials do not provide the requested properties, such as a sufficient barrier against water vapour, oxygen or flavours. The idea of the project is thus to improve the properties of bioplastics by a biodegradable and sustainable coating for food, cosmetics and medical applications. Importantly, the raw materials of the coating do not compete with food production.

A European consortium of 12 entities have partnered in the frame of the HyperBioCoat project, composed by different R&D entities and companies. This project will investigate and develop a new bio-based and biodegradable coating for rigid and flexible plastic packaging.

Within the project, the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Materials Recycling and Resource Strategies IWKS is working on the extraction and chemical modification of certain polysaccharides, mainly hemicellulose, as basis for the new coatings. For the extraction, the researchers use an extractor at pilot scale and pre-treated fruit residues from juice or pectin production, e.g. from apples or raspberries. To extract hemicelluloses, the extractor is operated with alkali or hot water. After the precipitation of the hemicelluloses with alcohol these are modified to meet the high functional requirements of bioORMOCER® coatings. The high accessibility for functionalization and therefore for modification is predestined to integrate hemicelluloses in further coating concepts. 

This coating, applied to bio-based packaging, will improve the barrier properties of bio-based packaging, which actually are not as strong as it is needed. The new bio-based coating will also increase the product’s shelf life and contribute to a reduction of CO2 emissions, as all the precursors needed for lacquer synthesis will be based on renewable materials.

The chemical upcycling of hemicelluloses from by-products of the agro-food industry supports several targets of the European bioeconomy strategy. It creates an additional value in the biogas sector, because the residues of the extraction represent a cellulose-rich feedstock for established biogas plants. Therefore, hemicellulose pre-extraction strengthens the cascade use of biomass. Hemicellulose extraction is compatible with phytoextraction processes based on organic solvents or CO2 thereby diversifying the product portfolio for producers of phytoextracts and for regional agro-biorefineries.

The project, coordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute ISC, has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 720736.