Seeding Food Innovation - Awarded Project 2018

Nanotechnology-based development of antimicrobial materials for food packaging and processing

Project Description

Food safety is a top priority in the food industry and public health. Since cross-contamination during food processing and preparation sometimes leads to foodborne outbreaks, it is important to develop novel intervention methods to reduce contamination of foods. Cross-contamination is usually initiated with the attachment of pathogenic bacteria to the food-contacting surface of food processing equipment, and possibly packaging materials. For this, various methods have been explored at the laboratory level with some technical limitations.

The primary goal of this proposal is to produce safe, universal antimicrobial food processing/packaging materials based on microfabrication technology and to develop a method for the surface functionalization of food processing materials (metals and plastics) to prevent bacterial contaminations. Our immediate objective is to capitalize on the recent success in the fabrication of a molding system for the development of packages with (1) contact-killing surface and (2) surfaces that resist bacteria adhesion. The feasibility of packaging/processing materials will be evaluated by measuring adhesion/antimicrobial characteristics of bacteria after exposure to the antifouling/antimicrobial nano/micro-structured surface.

To implement our ideas, Dr. Hyo-Jick Choi (Assistant Professor, Chemical Materials Engineering, Univ. of Alberta) will be the principal investigator (PI), coordinating the research efforts with the co-PI Dr. Byeong Hwa Jeon (Associate Professor, Environmental Health Sciences, Univ. of Alberta). This team has all the needed specialties and resources to bring the project to fruition, from packaging material fabrication to disease testing. Their core specialties and a broad spectrum of knowledge provide them with holistic views of challenges and solutions.

Relevance to the field of food innovation

The proposed project broadly combines microfabrication technology with biotechnology to tackle the technical challenges associated with developing antifouling/antimicrobial packaging/processing materials. To this end, we propose a new approach for the production of antimicrobial materials with microfabrication technology, which offers multiple advantages: inhibited microbial adhesion, accelerated inactivation of microbes, low cost, and easy to scale up, benefiting food industries within Canada and beyond. The long-term objective is to translate our technology from lab to commercial scale through collaboration with industrial partners.

Anticipated outcome

The research program will lead to advancements in the design of highly efficient, food processing/packaging materials. Also, it will provide a blueprint to an effective control strategy for foodborne bacterial diseases that pose immediate risks to the public at large.


Dr. Hyo-Jick Choi

Dr. Choi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical & Materials Engineering at the University of Alberta and runs a sustainable engineering and drug delivery design (SEƎD) lab investigating new materials directed towards health and environmental applications. He has amassed knowledge in different » More Info

Dr. Byeong Hwa Jeon

Currently, Dr. Jeon is an Associate Professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta. He received his BSc in Food Science and Technology from Seoul National University in South Korea, MSc in Food Science and Biotechnology from Lind University in Sweden, and PhD in Veterinary Medical Sciences from the » More Info