Open innovation ecosystem for sustainable nano-functionalized plastic and paper surfaces and membranes

RESEARCH PROJECT »FlexFunction2Sustain«

Europe-wide network enables innovative developments in plastic and paper

project logo FlexFunction2Sustain, green plant with lettering
Machine for atomic layer deposition
Logo of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement n°862156.

Lack of development resources for SMEs and start-ups

There is a growing need for the development of innovative, sustainable plastic and paper surfaces and membranes. It is not just consumers and the political sphere seeking change in this area — industry players are also proactively looking for new packaging concepts that are recyclable and/or conserve resources more effectively. The market is home to several small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups that are keen to see the market integrate innovative ideas involving new materials based on nanotechnologies and sophisticated materials, plus new packaging designs. However, they do not have the resources required to put their ideas into practice and develop them to the point of market readiness. In many cases, they have major hurdles to overcome due to a lack of facilities for material development, testing and certification, as well as pilot production capacity.

A network for innovative nano-functionalized technologies

Now, the EU’s FlexFunction2Sustain research project has brought together 19 European partners from research and industry with the aim of pooling their expertise, their practical and scientific skills and their technical infrastructure, creating a sustainable, open network for innovations. In the Open Innovation Test Bed (OITB), the project partners are hoping to give companies the ability to trial nano-functionalized technologies that will make it possible to create sustainable, intelligent packaging, surfaces and membranes based on plastic or paper.

During the first stage of the project, the consortium worked together on various case studies for the companies involved:

  • Procter & Gamble: marine-degradable shampoo sachets
  • SONAE MC: paper-based fresh food packaging
  • HUECK Folien: biodegradable security labels
  • Capri-Sun: recyclable drink pouches
  • Centro Ricerche FIAT: innovative polymer surfaces in car interiors
  • i3 Membrane: selective and switchable water filter membranes

This approach allowed all the participating organizations to synchronize their skills and resources in order to decide whether it would be possible to help the industry partners bring their ideas to fruition, the parameters within which this would be possible, and who would be able to get involved. In-house facilities were also upgraded to the latest technology as part of the project. The second stage is issuing an open call for companies that are not part of the consortium and want to review their innovative packaging concept. The project is focused on the following applications:

  • Sustainable, intelligent packaging
  • Surfaces and membranes in filtration, medical and bio applications
  • Plastic and paper electronics
  • Optical films for security and design
  • Smart plastic films for architecture applications
  • Smart plastics in automotive application

Expertise in developing sustainable packaging materials

Through their many years of experience in developing packaging, the experts at Fraunhofer IVV are able to help companies create biodegradable and recyclable packaging with exceptional barrier properties. Their work includes developing, characterizing and analyzing various barrier concepts such as coating, metallization and SiOx vapor deposition. The institute is also able to create coatings and film finishes on a pilot scale using a variety of coating techniques, such as reverse gravure and slot-die coating. Not only that, but coatings tailored to the needs of the application in question can also be developed on flexible substrates using the roll-to-roll ALD method. An advanced coating unit is being installed for this purpose as part of the project. Additionally, the institute’s dedicated packaging facility offers the option of extruding polyolefin films from recyclates and then characterizing them on the basis of the RecyClass protocol. Once a prototype film has been designed and manufactured, there are numerous analysis methods available to choose from, including:

  • Determining the thermal properties and melting parameters using DSC and MFI measurements
  • Analyzing the surface tension and energy of the coating and substrate
  • Measuring barrier properties in the face of various gases at various temperatures
  • Determining the mechanical properties of packaging materials, such as tensile strength, elongation at break, adhesion and puncture resistance
  • Visually analyzing surfaces and cross-sections using microscopy, REM and AFM
  • Plus many more

Project data

Project term:

1.4.2020 to 1.4.2024

Project management
/project funding:

EU, European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme

Project partners:

  • Fraunhofer FEP
  • Fraunhofer IAP
  • Joanneum Research
  • ltfn Nanotechnology Lab
  • Coatema -Coating Machinery GmbH
  • amcor
  • Gesellschaft für Mittelstandsförderung
  • Organic Electronic Technologies P.C.
  • Sonnenberg Harrison
  • BL Nano Biomed
  • Centre Technique Industriel de la Plasturgie et des Composites
  • International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory
  • HOPE-A
  • i3 Membrane GmbH
  • Hueck Folien
  • Centro Ricerche FIAT
  • Procter&Gamble
  • Sonae
  • Capri-Sun
  • Amires