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Innovative time temperature indicator (TTI) as a smart label that shows the temperature fluctuations of products above the prescribed limit in the cold chain

Country of Origin: Slovenia
Reference Number: TOSI20161011001
Publication Date: 14 October 2016

Summary

A Slovenian research institute has invented a new time temperature indicator in the form of a smart label showing the temperature fluctuations of products above the prescribed limit in the cold chain. It can be used in food/drugs sector. The main advantage is its low-price fabrication which nonetheless brings high quality product.The technology is in prototype phase. The institute is looking for SMEs, big companies and offers commerical agreement with tec. assistance or licence agreement.

Description

The food retailing industry requires a high standard of quality and safety in both food and packaging. To assure that, one of the information provided is also to indicate exposure to excessive temperature (and time at temperature). This is nowadays provided by time temperature indicator.

There are a large number of different time temperature indicators available in the market, based on different technologies. Some devices are based migration of dye through a filter paper, while others contain pouches with bacterial fluids that change color when certain time-temperature combinations have been reached. To the degree that these physical changes in the indicator match the degradation rate of the food, the indicator can help indicate probable food degradation.

But the problem of indication of temperature and temperature history does not have known solutions that would meet the requirements of smart packaging and could be implemented by using methods of modern graphics technology.

An interesting solution is MonitorMark of the US company 3M for monitoring the temperature and time of the entire supply/delivery chain. It is characterized by a line movement achieved within the required time at a defined temperature. Recommended application is within protective packaging and not directly on a packaged product. The indicator is limited to a rectangular shape. Given the fact that the indicator is relatively thick and not flexible, it cannot be applied on a packaging and does not meet the conditions for a smart label.

The proposed solution is also different from the Safe-T-Vue temperature indicator, which is used only to indicate the exceeded temperature but not to record the exposure time above the activation temperature. These indicators also fail to meet the requirements for smart labels.

The Slovenian institute researchers have invented a new time temperature indicator that shows temperature fluctuations of products above prescribed limit in the cold chain, which can be used for the control of transport and/or warehousing of products and substances with properties that are significantly dependent on temperature and the time the allowed temperature was/is exceeded.

Offered technology works on the physical changes of the active material (with optional thermochromic colour change) combined with diffusion into a suitable matrix and it is in form of sticker/label attached on the product, which monitors product temperature.

The main advantage of this technological solution is its low-price fabrication which nonetheless brings high quality product, which combines functionalities of the existing technologies and adds some unique solutions, such as practically unlimited durability compared to existing solutions, measurement of cumulative time of exposure, thin and flexible design, lowest possible contamination with dangerous substances and most importantly it enables large range of modifications and adjustments to the different applications (drugs, food…) and the needs/wishes of the costumers.

The offered technology solution is currently in prototype phase (TRL6) and the patent application was filed, but not yet granted.

The institute is looking for a buyer of the patent or a licensee among industrial partners, SMEs and bigger companies. Commecial agreement with technical assistance or licence agreement is offered to the interested companies.
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Advantages and Innovations

- Practically unlimited durability of the TTI compared to the existing examples (also suitable for products with long expiration date).
- Very large colour difference between blank and exposed samples, consequently the recorded information is readable under all circumstances and a clear visual identification enables also that automatic detection is assured (e.g. by a video camera).
- If desired, different look of the activated TTI can be made (thermochromic effect could be included).
- The indicator does not only show that the (predefined) temperature was exceeded, but also presents the cumulative time of exposure to high temperature (up to several hours).
- All the applied materials are commonly used in printing/graphic industry, except the active material.
- The indicator is thin and flexible and could thus be attached to a non-flat surface.
- The fabrication of the indicator is repeatable up to tolerances meets in optical security printing, which assures practically the same working of every issue.
- Low-price fabrication (the estimated cost of materials is about 2-5 eurocent per issue, depending on number of copies and the requirements for the active material).
- Lowest possible contamination with dangerous substances.
- Recycling possibility is comparable to or higher than printed functionalities such as smart labels or smart packaging. Depending on the demands for predefined temperature and colour of the indicating mark, environmentally safe and ton-toxic ingredients could be applied.

Stage Of Development

Prototype available for demonstration

Stage Of Development Comment

The laboratory prototype was made and tested – TRL6.

Requested partner

The institute is looking for SMEs and/or bigger companies (industrial partners) active in the field of smart labels or TTIs. Their role would be to buy the patented rights of the offered technology solution and further develop and exploit it or to accomplish a licence agreement under which the industrial partner can exploit the offered technology and pay royalties for its use.

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