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Evaluation of biodegradable films and membranes containing nanocellulose, essential oils and proteins for food and water safety


In face of the environmental crisis caused by the increase in the amount of plastic materials improperly discarded in the environment, the interest for the development of new, environmentally friendly and sustainable polymers with low environmental impacts from both production and disposal is growing. This increased demand for green (sustainable) materials has led the plastics industries to develop polymers from renewable or biodegradable sources. Also, along with environmental concern, the need to develop functional or active materials has been highlighted. These materials bring together numerous benefits in a single product, such as antimicrobial and antioxidant activities, among others. Among the many possible approaches to the development of these new materials and products, the use of nanotechnology has been shown to be relevant, because such technologies can provide advanced functional fillers and nanocapsules containing active agents for polymers, which may also be useful in the development of functional and active biodegradable plastics (i.e., products with different functions, which also have more sustainable characteristics). Considering the energy-food-water nexus, the present proposal aims at establishing an exchange of researchers between UFABC and the University of Waterloo for the development of films and flexible membranes of biodegradable polymers functionalized with nanostructures of proteins and nanocellulose. The goal in this collaboration to be established is to develop microcapsule systems containing cationic proteins from the Moringa oleifera plant, essential oils and cellulose nanostructures (CNs) to provide controlled release of active antimicrobials in films and polymer membranes. The partnership between the proponents aims at two main applications. In the first one, the development of biodegradable food packaging with antimicrobial activity, incorporating antimicrobial active ingredients in cellulose nanostructures (nanocrystals or nanofibrils) and their application in the biodegradable polymer matrix. The second application refers to the development of devices to detect, treat and guarantee clean and safe drinking water for direct and indirect uses. Seeking the application of controlled release of antimicrobial agents, the technology that Prof. Rosa has been developing in his laboratory will be allied to the experience of Prof. Mitra in the identification of E. coli in water, treating the water with extracts of Moringa oleifera, and enabling food safety through the development of innovative biosensors. It is intended to evaluate the effect of the incorporation of cellulose nanostructures (CNs) with different essential oils and cationic protein of Moringa oleifera and to conduct a study using a device already developed by Prof. Mitra to detect, remove and inactivate the harmful Gram-negative bacteria Escherichia coli (from the fecal coliform group) of water and food sources. This partnership will be of immense importance for the current FAPESP project and to expand the results to be obtained aiming at the spread of new technologies and stimulus to the development of final products, as fruits of international collaborations. The exchange activities will also allow planning of joint research, optimization of various biological testing protocols, use of equipment, the organization of seminars, discussion of results, student exchange and thus opportunities for long-term projects between the two groups. (AU)