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IN-LINE CONTROL OF PACKAGING INTEGRITY: HERE ARE THE NEW SENSORS

 

21/05/2020


IN-LINE CONTROL OF PACKAGING INTEGRITY: HERE ARE THE NEW SENSORS

An important innovation that opens new sectors for the application of these non-destructive checks.


The research & development of FT System has, in recent years, excelled at innovative applications of laser spectroscopy in the food & beverage sector. A non-destructive and non-invasive method that has made it possible to perform in-line sealing checks in the food industry or to analyze the concentration of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the beverage sector.

We discussed this with Massimo Fedel, of the Photonics and Nanotechnology Institute of the Padua CNR–IFN and co-founder of L Pro Gas Sensing that has, for years, worked with FT System for the development of new sensors that can be applied to quality controls.

Massimo, what are some concrete innovative elements that can be inserted in the production departments of undertakings?


We are working on several fronts to find innovative solutions that can be applied to in-line inspections. Producers need to increasingly implement quality control of their products, with technologies that are easy to use, fast, so that they can be applied to the production line, and precise in terms of results. All in all, a rather difficult combination of needs to satisfy. That’s why I started testing technologies other than IR spectroscopy, such as sensors made with nanostructured semi-conductors whose response varies depending on a reversible chemical interaction between the sensor’s surface and the gaseous environment with which it comes in contact. For example, it’s possible to identify the presence of volatile organic compounds, not selectively, as happens with laser spectroscopy, but efficiently for certain quality controls in the packaging sector. The results have been truly satisfactory, both in terms of identifiable molecules and in terms of applicability to a wide range of products. We are ready for the market.

To which quality controls and production sectors can these technological innovations be applied?

The possibility to identify various target molecules, depending on the product and on the packaging, enables us to control the sealing of more than just food; an indispensable quality control so that we can be sure of proper preservation or quality. The first sectors to come to mind are those of packaged bread or confectionery, where micro-holes in the sealing can render the product non-compliant in terms of quality. Various methods or preservation are used in these sectors, ranging from CO2 to alcohol. So that we can, therefore, meet all needs related to the control of sealing, we must use various target molecules present in the packaging because they are used in the production process. And that’s exactly what we’re able to do: choose the right technology depending on the product and the target molecules to control the sealing, in-line and on 100% of production.

Is it possible to identify molecules that are naturally present in the product to control the sealing?

This is an important aspect. The answer is “yes”, because we’re also able to identify volatile substances, naturally produced by the product. Take coffee, for example, where we can verify the sealing of the capsules or other containers by exploiting some of the coffee’s own aromas. If we identify the presence of these molecules outside the outer area of the packaging, it means that the packaging is not closed properly and that the quality of the product it contains is not guaranteed. I’m not only thinking of the food industry, however; we’re performing tests on various types of products and packaging that use added volatile essences. For example, the wet wipes industry, where it’s not an issue of preservation, but a desire to guarantee the integrity of the packaging. With the new sensors developed by FT System we’ll be able to meet various market needs regarding the control of pack sealing on 100% of production.