Nanotechnology is the study of matter with at least one characteristic dimension measured in the ranges from 1to 100 nm in scale.It extends its potential from mechanics to medicine and able to create new devices and techniques. Nanoparticle acts as a whole unit in terms of transport and properties andare classified according to their characteristics, size and structures. Nanomaterials is a field that takes a materials science approach to nanotechnology.
Food nanotechnology has its history from Pasteurization process introduced by Pasteur to kill thespoilage bacteria, made the first step of revolution in food processing and improvement in quality of foods. Later, the invention of carbon nanotubes “buckyball fullerene” which is 1nm in size served as the cutting edge discovery to the world of innovation and led to the era of nanoscience and shows an enormous potential in all fields including food sectors.Some important applications of nanomaterials are given below in the various field of food industries.
In food Processing: It is the conversion of raw ingredients into food and its other forms by making it marketable and with long shelf life. Processing includes toxin removal, prevention from pathogens, preservation, improving the consistency of foods for better marketing and distribution. Processed foods are usually less susceptible to early spoilage than fresh foods and are better suited for long distance transportation from the source to the consumer. All these are made more effective by the incorporation of the nanotechnology nowadays .Nano capsules delivery systems plays an important role in processing sector and the functional property are maintained by encapsulating simple solutions, colloids, emulsions, biopolymers and others into foods. Nano sized self-assembled structural lipids serves as a liquid carrier of healthy components that are insoluble in water and fats called as nanodrops. They are used to inhibit transportation of cholesterol from the digestive system into the bloodstream.
In Food Packaging: Food packaging for food requires protection, tampering resistance, and special physical, chemical, or biological needs. It also shows the product that is labelled to show any nutrition information on the food being consumed. The packing has a great significance in preserving the food to make it marketable. Innovations in packaging have lead to quality packing and consumer friendly approach in determining the shelf life, biodegradable packing and many more. Nanotechnology in packaging is categorized based on the purpose of the application.
In Barrier Protection: The food products are preserved by maintaining it in an inert and low oxygen atmosphere for inhibiting microbial growth and spoilage, thus the material used should be impermeable to gases. Nanocomposites are incorporated in the polymer matrix of the substances due to their large surface area which favors the fillermatrix interactions and its performance. Also the nanoreinforcement’s acts as small, barriers for gases by complicating the path of the material, both are known as polymer nanocomposites. Nanoclays are composite materials having complex metallic ores. They are naturally obtained from volcanic ash as Montmorillonite which provides barrier to permeation of gases or polymer based clays prepared by nylons, polyolefin, PET, PA, epoxy resin, poly methane are used for polymer matrix in food packaging to get higher quality. But polyamide based nanoclays have been developed largely and commercialized under the trade names Durethan, Imperm, Aegis and noted for their durability and protection. Various researches have been developing in nanocomposites from cells and carbon nanotubes since packaging plays a backbone for commercialization of products.
In Antimicrobial Packaging: The barriers include natural nanoparticle to control microbial growth which leads to pathogens or spoiling. Silver nanoparticles are used in all forms including biotexiles, electrical appliances, refrigerators, kitchenware’s. These nanoparticles show needed action in bulk form, and its ions have the ability to inhibit wide range of biological processes in bacteria. Zinc oxide’s antibacterial nature increases with decreasing particle size, it can be stimulated by visible light, and they are incorporated in number of polymers including polypropylene. E. coli contamination can be controlled using titanium dioxide as a coating in packing material. It is also combined with silver to improve disinfection process. Chiston is a biopolymer derived from chitin recently reported antimicrobial properties additional to material for encapsulation. Antimicrobial packaging would be highly healthy and consumer friendly products.
In Biodegradable: Pollution is the most concerning factor which affects the environmental characteristics. The effect of nondegradable plastics changes the soil nature and accumulation of toxic gases in atmosphere leads to global warming, hence bio degradable plastics came into effect but they lack mechanical strength and permeable to water and gases .These disadvantages are prevailed over by nanotechnology incorporated packaging material made of natural or synthetic nanoparticles having properties like bio-degradable, renewable resources having high mechanical strength. Nanoparticles are obtained as the proteins, carbohydrates, lipids from animal and plant materials, also metal oxides nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes are used. In addition collagen, zein, cellulose from corn is synthesized into nanofibers it is highly porous in nature .These nano materials are added along with nanoclays and used for comfort packaging. They also have additional novel properties like sensors, antibacterial action and as biocatalysts.
In Smart Packaging: Sensors devices areused to detect the physical quantity of substances and converts into observer readable signals. They are used to regulate the internal environment of the food stuffs and their properties are sensed regularly which is indicated by sensors. A recent report shows that the current smart packaging segment is dominated by oxygen scavengers, moisture absorbers and barrier packing product, accounting for 80% of the market. Whereas the bakery and meat products having attracted most nano-enabled packaging technology to date. The food environment is continuously sensed for oxygen content, temperature, pathogens and indicators are used for proper alarming. They also show the shelf life of the products with the help of the nanosensors. Some examples include gold nano particle incorporated enzymes for microbes detection, gas sensing related to condition of food products :nanofibrils of perylene-based fluorophores indicates fish and meat spoilage by detecting gaseous amines. Others also include the zinc oxide and titanium oxide nanocomposites for the detection of volatile organic compounds. Nanobarcodes are used for tagging and also for security. Thus the use of smart sensors is beneficial to the consumers in terms of better quality identification and producers for rapid distribution and authentication of the food products.
In Nutritional Supplements: According to a survey, the total market value of nanofood would reach US$5.8 billion (food processing US$1303 million, food ingredients US$1475 million, food safety US$97 million and food packaging US$2.93 billion) in 2015.Thus making heavy profit to economy.Nanoceuticals, Nutrition-be-nanotech, are commercial names for supplements. Nanosized powders are used for increasing absorption of nutrients, nanocochleates are considered as effective tool for nutrient delivery to cells without affecting color and taste of food products. Vitamin sprays disperse nanodroplets are used for better absorption of nutrients. Supplementary aspect main involves encapsulation techniques where the needed probiotics, and other products are targeted into the human system with the help of iron and zinc nano structured capsules. Thus, nanotechnology in food supplement is very effective than common supplements because they react more effectively with human cells due to their size.
Thus, the wide potential of nanotechnology in overall food industry and its benefits in providing rich nutritional value, quality packaging, smart sensing are to be borne in mind and relevant research for more safer techniques for incorporation of nanotechnology in food industry has to be implemented.