Photonic BioSystems has developed an oxygen detection dye that can be incorporated inside sealed packages in the manufacturing stage to maintain quality control for the food and beverage sector.
The oxygen-sensitive luminescent dye cannot be seen by the human eye and can be incorporated into the packaging polymers for flexible film packages, rigid containers, glass bottles, caps and corks.
A hand-held scanner can be used from outside the package to optically interrogate the dye with the resulting luminescence indicating oxygen levels and the resulting quality of the product.
When the dye is stimulated by a UV laser light it gives off a red emission, if the package had a breach and oxygen was allowed to get in, the emission fades.
The firm are now looking for a licencee to help develop the product for commercial use and said they are “confident” of the ability to scale up production.
The Seattle-based developers of the non-invasive detection method claim to be the first to be able to incorporate such technology directly into the package at polymer production stage, unlike current methods were oxygen sensing dots or labels are placed inside a package after production.
The technology can pass through other colours and pigments such as labels, it allows penetration of coloured packaging and can be tailored to the oxygen range of interest.
Quality control of growing importance
Dr David Putnam, president of Photonic BioSystems, told FoodProductionDaily.com that quality control was more important than ever due to recent changes in food law.
“Our technology checks to see if the packaging maintains the low levels of oxygen or if oxygen has crept in throughout the chain.
“The ability to incorporate the dye into any sealed package and make it oxygen sensitive with no external dot is something no-one else can do.
“[It offers] protection of the contents from contamination and the technology to measure the integrity in package and ensure it hasn’t been tampered with.”
The system meets food safety laws, offers real-time measurement and enables monitoring from the supply chain to retail, said the developers.
It can measure oxygen in the gas phase environment of a dry package, in the headspace of a liquid package, or of dissolved-oxygen in fluids and beverages.
Integration in packaging polymers
Dr Putnam added: “It is for integration into packaging polymers in the raw material process, it is not intended to require a new method.
“Putting our sensing dye into packages ensures all packages are checked for quality control and not just limited samples that are taken if you use labels or dots and just check certain packages.”
The creation enables quality control and analysis up to the point of sale from the packaging production stage which means earlier identification of packaging equipment malfunction, said Photonic BioSystems.
Sensors can also be made as small discrete labels or tags that are put in packages.
The dye can be used in bags, pouches and films, trays, containers, vessels and bottles with caps and lidding in vacuum and modified atmosphere packaging (MAP).
Dr Putnam added that the technology could be used throughout the chain.
“The instrumentation is portable for production areas and the hand held scanner can be used in a distribution centre.
“Retailers such as CostCo and Walmart and other end retailers have the capacity to be able to scan packages to quality check.”