Very recently, SBIO’s Dr. Young-Teck Kim and his colleagues (PI: Dr. Haibo Huang, FST) received a grant from USDA-NIFA through interdisciplinary and multiple institutes collaboration. The total fund is approximately $460,000, and Dr. Kim’s share of this grant is $145K. This project began on Jan. 1, 2021, and it will continue for the next 3 years.

The title of this research project is “Development of A Visible Light-Responsive Antimicrobial Packaging Systems for Improving Food Quality and Safety.” It has been designed to provide smart packaging solutions for communities that use sustainable packaging materials and technologies. Dr. Kim is serving as Co-PI for this project, and he is in charge of the development of the sustainable packaging’s materials and structures.

This research is the first attempt to design and fabricate a dye-sensitized packaging film that can harvest visible light photons to produce a blast of reactive oxygen species (ROS) to inactivate bacteria attached to packaging film or packaged foods (Figure 1). For example, bacteria or other pathogenic microorganisms can be killed by the packaging system as it will have a dye-sensitized ingredient that is activated during indoor storage or display where there is only visible light. It will improve the shelf-life of food products and increase the customer safety.

Scheme of a dye-TiO2 antimicrobial packaging material.

Scheme of a dye-TiO2 antimicrobial packaging material.
Figure 1. Scheme of a dye-TiO2 antimicrobial packaging material.

Dr. Kim believes that the success of this project will bring numerous benefits to both consumers and industry by extending the shelf life of food products while providing reliable safety and quality through a sustainable packaging solution. Typically, packaging solutions for safety and sustainability are very hot topics, especially under the current era of the coronavirus outbreak.

Dr. Kim will be immediately hiring one graduate research assistant and a few undergraduate research interns for this project.