The active packaging materials fabricated using natural polymers is increasing in recent years. Electrohydrodynamic processing has drawn attention in active food packaging due to its potential in fabricating materials with advanced structural and functional properties. These materials have the significant capability in enhancing food’s quality, safety, and shelf-life.
Through electrospinning and electrospray, fibers and particles are encapsulated with bioactive compounds for active packaging applications. Understanding the principle behind electrohydrodynamics provides fundamentals in modulating the material’s physicochemical properties based on the operating parameters.
This review provides a deep understanding of electrospray and electrospinning, along with their advantages and recent innovations, from food packaging perspectives. The natural polymers suitable for developing active packaging films and coatings through electrohydrodynamics are intensely focused.
The critical properties of the packaging system are discussed with characterization techniques. Furthermore, the limitations and prospects for natural polymers and electrohydrodynamic processing in active packaging are summarized.
Conclusion and Future Trends
Natural polymer’s usage in active packaging systems could produce high-quality foods with extended shelf life and cut down environmental waste accumulation. Although the natural polymers are biodegradable, their food packaging usage is relatively low due to their poor mechanical properties. At higher humidity, the hydrophilicity of polymers impacts plasticization, thus strongly limiting their packaging application. Therefore, improving the material’s stability, barrier, and mechanical properties by blending natural polymers through electrohydrodynamic processing is highly significant.
For material generation through electrospray/electrospinning, the selection of polymer and the compatible solvent is complicated as a polymeric blend is needed to fabricate beadless fibers and uniform particles. The solution dynamics, viscosity, surface tension, conductivity, droplet size, and solvent equality significantly impact the electrohydrodynamic process and material properties; hence, solution optimization is necessary. Besides, electrohydrodynamic processing is time consuming compared to other encapsulation techniques. Therefore, process innovations (e.g., SA-EHDP, EAPG) and modifying operational aspects like multiple-needle elucidate to be a critical advancement in the research scale. Finally, the collection and recovery of materials are also challenging areas for further improvements.
From the authors’ viewpoint, future research and development could include:
- Active packaging materials should be tested with real food to determine their protection and quality enhancement efficiency
- Testing the sensory characteristics, nutritional value, and physicochemical properties of the treated foods are of higher importance
- Specially designed containers may be required to avoid direct contact between the food and packaging materials, depending on the properties of materials
- Potential health risks of the fabricated materials after exposed directly to foods should be evaluated with caution
- Exploring the physicochemical properties of natural polymers is crucial in designing novel packaging systems
- Release kinetics of the bioactive compounds could be modulated based on the core to wall ratio, thereby significantly extending foods shelf-life.
Implementing active packaging using electrohydrodynamic processing on an industrial scale involves collaboration between researchers from different areas (e.g., food packaging, biomaterial science, engineering, nanotechnology) and the food packaging industry. Future research and industrial investments are vitally important to expand their packaging application to benefit food safety, supply, environment, and health.
Website Link (Article by Charles et. al. 2021)