The European FLEXPOL project has developed an innovative antibacterial plastic film using nanoencapsulated essential oils that is more eco-friendly than current hygienic practices and methods. The project involves using this material in hospitals, though this new development may be of interest to other sectors such as the public transport, food, textile, construction, electrical and electronics, and even cattle industries.
AIMPLAS, the Plastics Technology Centre, has participated in the European FLEXPOL project, whose mission is to develop a new, more eco-friendly material with antimicrobial and antifungal properties to be used in hospitals. This plastic film is designed to cover surfaces that are highly exposed to contact with microbes and to prevent surface proliferation of these organisms by keeping them from adhering. Essential oil encapsulation technologies are therefore being used to obtain a product that is easy to apply and remove.
The project’s main challenge was to keep the essential oil nanocapsules intact during film processing because of their low thermal resistance. In this area, AIMPLAS contributed its nanotechnology expertise by developing a method that prevents the nanocapsules from being destroyed during the compounding phase of processing.
As a result of this project, which will be developed in a real hospital environment after the laboratory phase, it will be possible to significantly reduce the use of detergents and antibiotics, thus making nanocapsulation an eco-friendly alternative. This method is claimed to be less expensive than those currently in use.
The FLEXPOL project is funded by the European Commission H2020 program and is coordinated by Fraunhofer. A total of eleven entities from five countries have participated, namely: AIMPLAS, Naturality S.L., University of Alicante, University Hospital Donostia, IK4-Tekniker and Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2) (Spain); Propagroup S.p.A., Softer (Italy); Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT (Germany); 3B’s research laboratory at the University of Minho (Portugal); and Granta Design Ltd. (United Kingdom).
At AIMPLAS, the Plastics Technology Centre, there is a twofold mission – to provide added value to companies so they can create wealth and meet societal challenges to improve people’s quality of life and secondly, to ensure environmental sustainability.
A non-profit research association and member of REDIT (Network of Technological Institutes of the Valencia Region), AIMPLAS offers enterprises in the plastics industry comprehensive and customized solutions. These include development and innovation projects, training, competitive and strategic intelligence, and technological services such as analysis, testing and technical assistance. The association also supports the 17 SDGs of the UN Global Compact when carrying out its work and corporate social responsibility activities.