Essential Oils a New Target for Specialty Chemical Firms Investigating Innovative Food Packaging
An essential oil is a natural oil that maintains the characteristic fragrance of the plant from which it is extracted. Essential oils have taken off in the past decade as more consumers look for natural alternatives to drugs. As with any product, some users are cheerleaders and others would rather see the trend fall by the wayside. One of my friends made homemade wipe solution using tea tree oil after her son experienced incurable diaper rash. On the other hand, my husband bought some over-the-counter drops to help treat seasickness; it smelled like a mixture of lavender and peppermint. I can’t say that it really helped, but he definitely smelled nice the whole cruise. Many of the reported uses of essential oils have not been validated by scientific research, though some studies do support their use as antimicrobials and antioxidants. So it makes some sense that essential oils are being incorporated for new uses, including innovative trends in food packaging.
The next wave of essential oils trends seems to be heading toward food preservation and in new types of food packaging. Due to their antimicrobial properties, oils from oregano and rosemary are being investigated for use in food packaging, such as edible films in which to package meats or fruits. Using essential oils in food packaging will appeal to consumers who prefer all-natural food components and may help companies lengthen the shelf lives of packaged foods. Research into how to best incorporate essential oils for these purposes is still in the beginning stages though, as the compatibility of the oils with food matrix components is not always acceptable. As specialty chemical firms investigate how to capitalize on the antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of essential oils, their labs should consider implementing an electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) to help accelerate research and stay in the front of the pack. Here are three ways that an ELN can help firms investigate accessory roles of essential oils:
Automate and streamline research
Though research acknowledges that many essential oils have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, their modes of action are still largely poorly understood. Since labs are dealing with food products, it is essential to understand how the oils react with components of the food to know if unhealthy products could be formed through the reactions. These investigations are not small goals and will require extensive intellectual and energy input from researchers. An ELN can help researchers automate and streamline research processes so that they spend more time thinking and less time doing administrative work. An ELN offers productivity features like protocol cloning, experiment templates and simple upload of text, image and data files to notebook entries.
The investigation into developing food packaging containing essential oils will require heavy chemistry use. Chemical reactions between oils and common packaging components will need to be explored so that packaging integrity is not compromised. An ELN that features synthetic chemistry options, like the ability to record chemical structures and reactions, and integrate with existing cheminformatics applications, can help your lab be more productive as it examines the chemical properties of essential oils.
Intellectual property protection
The company who solidifies the use of an essential oil as a component of food packaging will want to make sure their intellectual property is protected. An ELN provides a permanent, digital record of all experiments and can support your claim in the event of patent infringement. Use of digital signatures and witnessing increases the reliability of your records.
Essential oils are transitioning from their primary use in cosmetics and naturopathic remedies to food packaging components to increase shelf life. As labs investigate how to best incorporate the oils into packaging, consider implementing an ELN to help your lab stay ahead of the game. Visit the Accelrys website to learn more about how the Accelrys Notebook can automate and streamline research processes and innovation in your lab.