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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Environmental Microbial & Food Safety Laboratory » Research » Research Project #439574

Research Project: Improving Food Safety of Fresh Produce via Nanotechnology

Location: Environmental Microbial & Food Safety Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-32420-009-016-A
Project Type: Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Oct 1, 2020
End Date: Jul 31, 2022

This project seeks to develop novel antimicrobial agents using Nano technology. Specifically, will 1) develop antimicrobial nanoparticle-based washing fluids and rheological approaches to improve microbial reduction and prevention of biofilm formation on fresh and fresh-cut produce; and 2) develop a nanocomposites hydrogel to improve food processing water filtration efficacy and safe reuse.

1. Innovative nano-encapsulation systems will be tailor-designed to enhance the antimicrobial potency on hydrophobic food surfaces, such as fresh produce. Antimicrobial essential oils, including eugenol, thymol, carvacrol, will be tested and encapsulated into a novel delivery system prepared from natural dendritic nanostructures, i.e., phytoglycogen nanoparticles. Specifically, chemical modification will be applied to fine-tune the surface hydrophobicity of the phytoglycogen nanoparticles by grafting different chain-length fatty acid. The modified hydrophobic nanoparticles will be explored to encapsulate a series of essential oils as natural antimicrobial agents. The as-prepared nanoparticles will be comprehensively characterized for nanoparticulate properties including particle size, zeta potential, morphology, and colloidal stability. Then the nanoparticles solution will be used as washing fluids and tested for their antimicrobial potency on fresh produce, such as cantaloupe. The effect of nano technology for inhibiting biofilm formation will also be evaluated. 2. Nanotechnology approach will also be further applied to develop nanocomposites hydrogel that can be used as filtrations device during water treatment of food processing water. Nanocomposites will be in-situ fabricated by reducing metal ions to nano elements right onto a porous polymer hydrogel matrix (chitosan). The in-situ grafting of metal nanoparticles (such as silver nanoparticles) will be realized by dopamine self-polymerization reaction. The nanocomposites hydrogels will be characterized for their efficiency to remove pathogens and chemical pollutants (such as industrial dyes and heavy metals). A filtration prototype will be designed to test the filtration capacity to guide future scaleup studies.