Thin Al2O3 Barrier Coatings Grown on Bio-based Packaging Materials by Atomic Layer Deposition

Terhi Hirvikorpi
Abstract & Cover

Growing environmental concerns related to the use of synthetic non-biodegradable polymers in the packaging industry have led to the need for new, especially bio based, materials. Currently, petroleum-based synthetic polymers are widely used due to their relatively low cost and high performance. Biodegradable plastics and fibre-based materials have been proposed as a solution to the waste problems related to these synthetic polymers. Fibre-based packaging materials have many advantages over their non-biodegradable competitors, such as stiffness vs. weight ratio and recyclability. However, poor barrier properties and sensitivity to moisture are the main challenges restricting their use. Application of a thin coating layer is one way to overcome these problems and to improve the barrier properties of such materials. Atomic layer deposition (ALD) is a well suited technique for depositing thin inorganic coatings onto temperature-sensitive materials such as polymer-coated boards and papers and polymer films. In the present work, thin and highly uniform Al2O3 coatings were deposited at relatively low temperatures of 80, 100 and 130 °C onto various bio-based polymeric materials employing the ALD technique. The study demonstrates that a 25-nm-thick ALD-grown Al2O3 coating significantly enhances the oxygen and water vapour barrier performance of these materials. Promising barrier properties were obtained with polylactide-coated board, hemicellulose-coated board as well as various biopolymer (polylactide, pectin and nanofibrillated cellulose) films after coating with a 25-nm-thick Al2O3 layer. Thin Al2O3 coatings can improve the properties of biopolymers, enabling the use of these renewable polymers in the production of high-performance materials for demanding food and pharmaceutical packaging applications. The future roll-to roll ALD technology for coating polymers with inorganic thin films will increase the industrial potential of these materials and could lead to further opportunities for their commercialization. 

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FinALD40 exhibition material,
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland / Aalto University
(Espoo, Finland)
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