The holy grail – Irish scientists invent technology to keep the fizz in beer

18 Sep 2012

Multinational brewing company SABMiller is to invest in a project at Trinity College Dublin’s CRANN that will see nanoscience used to develop a new material to prolong the shelf life of beer in plastic bottles.

The project, led by Prof Jonathan Coleman and his team at CRANN, have used nanoscience to create a new material that when added to plastic bottles makes them extremely impervious.

As a result, oxygen cannot enter and neither can carbon dioxide escape – as a result preserving the taste and fizz.

The team will exfoliate nano-sheets of boron nitride, each with a thickness of about 50,000 times thinner than one human hair. These nano-sheets will be mixed with plastic, which will result in a material that is extremely impervious to gas molecules. The molecules will be unable to diffuse through the material and shelf life will be increased.

As well as increasing the shelf life of the beer itself, less material is required in production, reducing cost and environmental impact.

The technique has been published in the journal Science.

Ireland is sixth in the world for nanoscience

“This partnership with SABMiller highlights the applicability of nanoscience and its relevance to everyday products,” Dr Diarmuid O’Brien, executive director, CRANN, explained.

“Improving every consumables, from our lighting, our cars, our electronic devices, medicines, clothing, and food and drink, is being researched by nanoscientists worldwide. Ireland is amongst the world leaders in this area, ranked sixth globally for materials science.

“Because of the work like that of Prof Coleman and his peers, last year CRANN received over €5m in non-Exchequer funding to progress research projects. Companies worldwide, like SABMiller, are taking notice. We are delighted to partner on this exciting project and look forward to its results,” O’Brien said.

Beer image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years