The Functional Film Blog sat down with members of DUNMORE’s product development and technical team. We asked questions related to the past, present, and future of film technology and how film materials have played a disruptive role. The following interview is with DUNMORE’s lead research scientist.
Advancements in plastics, metals, and glass have significantly evolved over the past 25 years. Can you think of an example where a plastic film substrate disrupted a market and incumbent material?
A good example is the multi film and foil laminate to replace metal cans. The US military was the first one to adopt that technology back in the 1950’s, with the military’s Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) packages. The new packaging material reduced the weight that the soldiers had to carry, and eliminated the can taste to the food.
The packaging was more technically advanced than your regular chip packaging with the combination of different films and foil to give the required properties. You have a 4 ply or 3 ply laminate combination of polyester, nylon, aluminum foil, and polypropylene. The polyester gives durability, and the nylon or polyamide gives puncture resistance. The aluminum foil is an effective barrier against oxygen, moisture, and microbes. Also, the polypropylene film is heat sealable and makes it inert to aggressive food materials. That was a specific application for the military, but later on, particularly in Asian countries like China and Japan, it has been the primary way to preserve food instead of using metal cans.
What kind of impact did the film technology have on a different market application?
Identical chemistry or structure for packaging is used to make lithium ion batteries. Previously, metal was used for regular batteries. By switching over to a plastic foil laminate you can pack in more energy, per unit volume than you can with metal. The chemistry is similar and all of the materials are pretty stable especially the inner layer of the polypropylene, which is quite inert to the very aggressive lithium ion chemistry.
As a result, the weight and dimensions of lithium ion batteries have been reduced. It has revolutionized the development and evolution of your electronic devices, such as phones and laptops.