and design in a neat package
dressings are packaged to stay sterile; food is packaged
to stay fresh, or to look attractive; tools are packaged
to protect the handler. Almost everything we buy or use
is packaged in some way, and while we might casually throw
away the wrappings, or recycle them if we're environmentally
minded, we rarely consider the level of design and technology
which creates those outer layers.
chemistry professor Jim Guthrie explains: "Packaging is
incredibly complex, with hundreds of chemical interactions
involved, in the adhesives, the printing processes, the
novel coatings and polymers now being used. If any of
those reactions is not 100% complete then active agents
remain which can cause problems to the contents."
of Professor's Guthrie's work looks at how to avoid tastes
and odours caused by unwanted chemical reactions. He develops
analysis techniques to identify the troublesome components,
often present in very small amounts.
Guthrie: "The ideal solution is to stop the reactions
happening in the first place. Where this isn't possible,
we block the by-products or add another chemical to change
the reaction. It's a very delicate balance, as using other
additives can cause more problems in itself."
in print Ð Jim Guthrie (above left) with Dr Jim MacWilliams
of the Leeds College of Technology
the package might be problem free as it rolls off the
production line in pristine condition, Professor Guthrie
also has to take into account what might befall it during
its lifetime, from how it is handled to the conditions
under which it is stored.
of the research is funded by printing and packaging companies,
who benefit from the departments' problem diagnosis, short-term
projects to find solutions, or longer-term developmental
work covers the whole packaging process, from design brief
to finished product, and solutions are either tested in
the factory, or on the Leeds College of Technology printing
Guthrie's research is also part of the White Rose Faraday
partnership, which brings together academics in the universities
of Leeds, York and Sheffield with partners in the packaging
more information on Faraday partnerships, see the White