New Plasma Packaging Sterilization Technology Dramatically Reduces Downtime

Experts from Campden BRI and Sterafill have recently found the plasma technology to cut pre- and re-sterilization times down by up to 93% compared to traditional methods – potentially saving manufacturers significant time with this process.

The research has successfully proven the application of cold plasma technology for continuous packaging sterilization, potentially revolutionizing the world of aseptic packaging by introducing this fourth state of matter.

Plasma technology has a number of advantages over traditional systems for this application. The cold plasma packaging sterilization system will take up significantly less floor space, allow manufacturers to adjust packaging during the run without compromising the aseptic zone and reduce downtime with its rapid re-sterilization process. There is also no need for the use or storage of hazardous chemicals.

The project, funded by Innovate UK, has allowed the teams to develop the world’s first commercial sterilization system using plasma technology.

Danny Bayliss, new technology lead at Campden BRI who generated the results, said:

“Proving that plasma can effectively sterilize packaging is a real milestone in applying the plasma technology for laminate packaging processes. Our findings move the world’s first plasma sterilization packaging system one step closer to commercial reality. Having to use and store hazardous chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide and the need to break the aseptic zone when adjusting packaging has long been a crux for traditional packaging sterilization systems. This project indicates a future where these chemicals will no longer be required for these systems, and packaging can be rapidly re-sterilized or pre-sterilized after human intervention without using bought-in chemicals.”

Following months of intensive testing, Bayliss confirmed a log reduction of Bacillus spores greater than 4.74 which meets VDMA (German Engineering Federation) requirements and sets Sterafill on the way towards getting FDA approval using the new plasma system. The results were gained with the technology operating near commercially relevant speeds on a single lane machine. The team’s focus now shifts to scaling up the system to be used on multi-lane setups, making it even more applicable to the industry.

The study was conducted on laminar sheets that are used to form stick packs, meaning the current application lies with both wet and dry ambient-stable products in this packaging format.

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