Packaging Science at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)unveiled the American Packaging Corp. Center for Packaging Innovation in 2006. The center has undertaken a variety of research projects with interdisciplinary teams of graduate students from packaging, engineering, science and printing technology.
The projects focus primarily on applied polymer research. A research team led by Dr. Changfeng Ge has recently completed a successful program, sponsored by NASA. The focus of the research was to investigate the capabilities of foam cushioning materials to protect critical hardware used in Extravehicular Activity (EVA) on the lunar surface. The project involved evaluating unique material performance parameters under extreme environmental conditions. External temperatures on the surface of the moon range from -55 to 75 deg C (-67 to 167 deg F). Atmospheric pressure is approximately 10-4 Pascal (Pa). Experiments were designed to screen, test and evaluate foam polymer materials. A polymer foam with the correct density, dimensional stability and cushion performance was identified and recommended to NASA for use on future lunar expeditions.
Another research program involved collaboration with a major chemical company to develop an adhesive that incorporated nano clay in the material converting processes. The key to this project was to reduce the use of laminates, by making the adhesive material, itself, add increased barrier properties, in addition to its adhesive functions. To date, the research team has been able to achieve a 20 percent increase in both oxygen and water moisture barrier when 1 percent of the nano clay is incorporated into the adhesive mix.
RIT Packaging Science recently partnered with the George Eastman House, in Rochester, NY, on a project funded by a "Save American Treasures" federal grant program. The goal was to develop an archival storage and protection system for daguerreotype photographs. The George Eastman House has one of the largest collections of daguerreotypes in the world. Nearly 4,500 images are included in the collection and require protection against oxygen, moisture, UV light and abrasion. The first phase of the project yielded a reclosable storage unit, using an anoxic, chemically inert gas. The protective device can be purged of oxygen, flushed with the inert gas and stored for up to five years with no maintenance. The unit can also be opened to allow inspection of the daguerreotype image, which can then be replaced, reflushed and resealed.
In addition to the above research activities in the center, the Packaging Science Dynamics Laboratory has recently investigated the effects of high temperature, high humidity environmental conditions on renewable paper packaging used to contain liquid products. Similar projects were undertaken to evaluate the cushion performance properties of renewable materials for protective package systems.
This laboratory has also investigated the effects of transport simulation test procedures on a variety of products ranging from the dispensing valves for bag-in-box sterilized liquids to military optics and mechanical components of alternative fuel vehicles.
The key to the success of the various research and testing programs has been the collaboration of industry, governmental and academic constituencies to generate the resources necessary to address the inherent interdisciplinary issues.