Learning to love Durian, as it shows antimicrobial properties

You either love it or you hate it, but according to a recent report in Food Navigator Asia, researchers in Malaysia have come up with a method to develop a packaging material, using the skin from Asia’s ‘king of fruits’, the Durian, which is both antimicrobial and biodegradable.

The team, from the International Islamic University in Malaysia (IIUM), were looking into the development of a biocomposite material (basically one which is made from two or more composites, one being naturally derived) as an alternative to current food packaging. They came up with something based on polylactic acid (PLA), epoxidized palm oil and Durian skin fibres.

While the research continues, it is already showing that addition of cinnamon essential oils(CEO), then treating the mixture with supercritical carbon dioxide,greatly improves the properties for food packaging.

The addition of the CEO to the Durian-based composite was found to be particularly important in the delivery of antimicrobial properties, says the report. Tests results with and without CEO showed vastly different effects on certain microbes, such as E.coli.The treated samples formed clear inhibition zones and prevented bacterial growth, said the researchers.

Only 55-65% of a Durian’s weight is flesh, so the remaining 35-45%, mostly skin and seed, is waste. If the skin fibres can be used to create a food friendly packaging material this would be a positive contribution to reduced environmental pollution, they claim.

Another major benefit of using Durian skin is its high rate of biodegradability. The research shows the material breaking down in a few months, rather than years for a traditional food plastics wrap. The addition of the supercritical CO² also helped to speed up this process.

In addition to food packaging the University team are looking at the potential of this biocomposite as a 3D printing material. The full scientific report: The effects of supercritical carbon dioxide on the degradation and antimicrobial properties of PLA biocomposite, can be found in the IIUM Engineering Journal.

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