Nanocomposites on the Horizon for Blister Packaging

Kassandra Kania

While nanocomposite technologies for packaging applications are still in the early development stages, opportunities appear to be promising, says a new report by Packaging Strategies (West Chester, PA) and BRGTownsend Inc. (Mt. Olive, NJ).

According to the report, titled "Nanocomposites for Packaging: New Frontiers and Future Opportunities," the use of nanomaterials in packaging provides the potential for barrier improvements and strength-enhancing properties. Although there are no commercial applications at present in pharmaceutical packaging, John Latham, senior consultant with BRGTownsend, believes that the industry could benefit from this technology in the future. "It offers some promise from a standpoint of improved properties—improved structural strength," he says. "It can offer some excellent barrier properties while still maintaining clarity."

Nanocomposites refer to polymer structures that contain mineral fillers or fibers, having at least one dimension in the nanomicron range, which is 1000 times smaller than a micron. Theses are incorporated and dispersed throughout the resin, Latham explains. "Typical nanoparticle loading levels in the resin are in the range of 2 to 6% by weight."

Nanocomposites can be used in both rigid and flexible pharmaceutical packaging. In addition to enhancing barrier properties, the technology enhances UV and infrared radiation absorbance, making it particularly suitable for blister packaging. "If a blister pack is in a box, you don't need UV protection," he explains, "but a lot of people take the blister pack out of the box and leave it on the counter to remind them to take their medication." According to Latham, incorporating nanocomposites into blister packaging for pharmaceuticals can potentially extend the shelf life of the product.

The use of nanocomposite materials in both the blister sheet and the covering layer is reportedly under investigation by a number of companies. The demand for resins used in blister packs is approximately 10 million lb per year, all of which is accessible by nanocomposite materials. Although the pharmaceutical industry is a minor market for nanocomposites at this time, the report forecasts that nanocomposite usage will be approximately 2% of total blister pack usage by 2011.

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