Empa develops packaging material from spent grains


Dübendorf ZH – Researchers at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) have extracted nanocellulose from brewer’s grains and used it to produce aerogels. They could be used for sustainable food packaging.

Researchers at Empa’ s Cellulose and Wood Materials Laboratory have developed a method for obtaining high-quality nanocellulose from spent grains, Empa reports in a press release. The researchers then used this to produce various aerogels. They are characterized by excellent thermal insulation properties and are biodegradable. The researchers’ aim is to make the aerogels suitable for packaging temperature-sensitive foods.

Nanocellulose is currently mainly obtained from wood. “Wood binds CO2 from the atmosphere very well, but only grows slowly,” research group leader Gustav Nyström is quoted as saying in the press release. “It is therefore much more suitable for long-lasting applications, such as in construction or for the manufacture of furniture.” The spent grains produced during beer brewing, on the other hand, have so far at best been used as animal feed or composted. “With our process, we can obtain high-quality materials from a waste product that is available very cheaply and in large quantities and is largely wasted today,” explains Empa researcher and co-author of the study, Gilberto Siqueira. “This also benefits small companies, which can get the most out of the raw materials they already use.” ce/hs