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USDA-Brazil Team Examines Biodegradable Food Packaging

Posted by Sandra Avant, Agricultural Research Service in Research and Science
Feb 21, 2017

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

A taste of Brazilian culture is presenting a favorable research environment for USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) chemist Atanu Biswas, who just returned from one of three trips he will be taking to Fortaleza, Brazil.

Biswas was awarded the “Science without Borders” fellowship, sponsored by the Brazilian government’s National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), to lead a collaborative research team investigating new food packaging based on natural biodegradable plastics. He is the first ARS scientist selected to participate in the competitive program.

Researchers, who have made an impact in the science arena from around the world, are chosen for the award from proposals submitted to the CNPq. Roselayne Ferro Furtado of Brazilian Enterprise for Agricultural Research (Embrapa) authored the proposal on Biswas’ research. Fellowship recipients are partnered with Brazilian scientists–creating long-lasting collaborations that benefit the agencies involved. 

In Brazil, Biswas is conducting research with program leader Furtado and collaborators Maria do Socorro Rocha Bastos and Selene Daiha Benevides on modifying polysaccharides such as starches, celluloses, cashew gum and zein proteins for use in food packaging. The team also is exploring high-tech applications of biosensors for things like health and homeland security uses, encapsulation and drug delivery, and polymers for electronics. 

Over the years, Biswas has synthesized and studied many polysaccharides and proteins and their derivatives where he works in the Plant Polymer Research Unit at ARS’s National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR) in Peoria, Illinois.  He also has developed methods to selectively modify polysaccharides to impart special properties and to increase the value of starting materials. 

Research in Brazil involves modifying biopolymers as potential film-forming materials, improving their physical attributes, and applying these materials in food packaging, coatings, encapsulations and biosensors. 

“The Embrapa group has made chitosan (made from crustaceans) and cashew nut films using the casting technique,” Biswas says. “However, the permeability and mechanical properties of the films need to be improved.  I believe we will be able to achieve this goal by using the modification methodologies I developed at NCAUR.”

Category/Topic: Research and Science

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bernardita fuentealba
May 19, 2015

no tendran esta informacion en español por favor.