For label and packaging producers, the food and beverage industry represents an enormous market – and one of crucial importance. Almost every product needs a label, whether integrated into the packaging or placed directly on the product. For most beverage companies, the labels on bottles and cans need to do much more than identify the product. A label is a brand’s calling card. In a research project sponsored by the German Federation of Industrial Research Associations, etifix and the Steinbeis Innovation Center for Applicationoriented Material-, Production-, and Process-Technology have joined forces to develop a new kind of label which actively controls the temperature of liquids. Labels of this kind open the door to a variety of applications in the beverage and automotive industries, as well as in medicine.
Many soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are kept in chilled cabinets at the point of sale. This ensures consumers enjoy the drink’s taste and aroma at the right temperature, and gives the beverages their trademark cooling, refreshing effect. Soft drinks are normally consumed at temperatures between 8 and 14 °C. As almost every chilled drink needs a label, etifix and the Steinbeis Innovation Center for Application-oriented Material-, Production-, and Process-Technology are developing a new two-in-one technology which combines labeling with cooling. The hightech labels must fulfill all the requirements of existing labels and be able to cool drinks, or at least keep their temperature constant for extended periods.
Fulfilling the different properties of the label requires a range of materials. The research project is focusing primarily on latent heat storage (LHS) materials, as they can absorb heat without becoming warmer. They are also able to store almost 15 times more heat than sensible heat storage (SHS) materials. Latent heat storage materials make use of a phase transition which allows the material to store energy without increasing in temperature. Because of this, these materials are sometimes also called phase change materials (PCM).
In the research project, the team is using these materials to develop labels which absorb energy and heat from the environment, keeping the liquid inside cool. Another requirement: once labels have absorbed energy, they should be able to release it again at a later time. And to cool drinks at a selected time, the team will also experiment with integrating frigorific mixtures into labels.
As well as creating innovative label materials, the experts from the Steinbeis Innovation Center and etifix are also developing new production technologies to manufacture the labels. Not only that, the two partners are also working on ways to adapt existing production methods to the new materials.
Björn Noack | Alexandru Söver | Prof. Dr.-Ing. Lars Frormann
Steinbeis Innovation Center Application-oriented Material-, Production-, and Process- Technology
Heinz-Jörg Schröder | Joachim Dudzik
etifix GmbH (Grafenberg)