Thinking Outside the Box (or Rigid Tray, or Pouch) with Porous Material

By Maureen Kingsley

A developer and manufacturer of sintered porous polymers has medical and pharmaceutical packaging in its sights

Jack Chan, PhD, director of medical markets for Porex Corp. (Fairburn, GA;, believes his company’s sintered porous polymers hold tremendous potential for the medical- and pharmaceutical-packaging markets. “We’ve been around for more than 50 years,” he says, “and our products are in so many medical devices. Porex invented the porous polymer technology for the healthcare market in the 1970s and was a developer of catheter vents in the 1980s,” he says, and the company has remained involved with the medical market ever since. However, Porex’s foray into medical and pharmaceutical packaging is more recent, and Chan believes the company’s P3 porous material, launched last year at MD&M West, is positioned to make quite an impact in that market.

 Porex rolls and sheets

“I’m excited about how Porex can look into the medical- and pharmaceutical-packaging markets and really expand the use of porous materials there,” Chan says. “For our P3 product specifically, in terms of medical-device packaging, our goal is to inspire industry to rethink medical packaging in a way that will make it more protective of the device while using less material. This proposal is being evaluated, tested, and validated,” he says.

One of the major advantages of the P3 material, Chan explains, is that because it has such a high airflow, surface area for venting can be minimized. “A medical engineer who is designing packaging can actually think about how he or she can minimize the porous surface, because a porous surface can be a point of entry for microbes. But if you minimize that surface area yet maintain an efficient EtO sterilization process that can allow the gas to permeate the packaging, you get the best of both worlds.

“When you look at sterility failure in the healthcare environment,” he continues, “most of those failures come from packaging. Our initial EtO sterilization study shows that our material is incredibly efficient in venting and allowing the gas to permeate for sterilization purposes.”

Porex SEM photo 

P3 technology harmonizes two conflicting properties, according to Chan: high sterile integrity and high airflow. Higher sterile integrity usually means lower porosity, and lower porosity results in lower airflow, which typically restricts the EtO sterilization process. With the P3 product, Chan maintains, high sterile integrity is combined with high airflow for more efficient EtO sterilization. “This combination is not possible for the common, traditional porous materials used in medical packaging,”Chan says. Furthermore, “a little P3 material will go a long way” to efficiently sterilize the contents of the packaging and reduce the risk of microbial penetration, he says.

The company’s current commercial applications for sterile packaging include bone-graft packaging, for which the customer needed “an extremely high sterile barrier,” and repeated autoclave-sterilization containers, for which Porex material “replaced sterilization paper and addressed the unmet need of improved microbial-barrier material and repeated sterilization” over 1000 cycles.

Chan summarizes his company’s problem-solving mentality this way: “The old days of trying to sell a polymer solution and see if people are interested are over. Today, we collaborate with our customers to create market driven innovations. What are the unmet needs out there? What’s driving the industry? We explore with our customers. We work through those unmet needs and concepts, and we make it possible for our customers to be market leaders.”

Porex is exhibiting at Booth 1759 at Medical Design & Manufacturing West 2014 February 11-13. 


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