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Dublin: 10°C Thursday 28 January 2021

Good news: Your beer could last longer*

*on the shelf, that is, thanks to Dublin-based scientists.

Image: David Jones/PA Wire/Press Association Images

GOOD NEWS FOR beer drinkers: scientists are currently developing a material to increase the alcoholic beverage’s shelf life in plastic bottles.

Scientists at CRANN, which is a nanoscience institute in Trinity College Dublin that is funded by the Science Foundation, are currently examining the possibility.

They have teamed up with SABMiller, a brewing company responsible for drinks like Miller, Peroni and Grolsch, on a project to increase the shelf life of beer in plastic bottles.

The project will be invested in by SABMiller for two years, and will see Professor Jonathan Coleman and his team in CRANN using nanoscience research methods to develop a new material that will prolong the shelf-life.

They said that current plastic bottles have a relatively short shelf life, “as both oxygen and carbon dioxide can permeate the plastic and diminish the flavour”.

The new material, when added to plastic bottles will make them extremely impervious, meaning that oxygen cannot enter and that the carbon dioxide cannot escape, thus preserving the taste and ‘fizz’.

How it works

For their research, the team will exfoliate nano-sheets of boron nitride, each with a thickness of approximately 50,000 times thinner than one human hair.

These nano-sheets will then be mixed with plastic, which will result in a material “that is extremely impervious to gas molecules”. Because the molecules won’t be able to diffuse through the material, shelf life of the beer 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. Professor Coleman’s technique of exfoliating boron nitride, and other layered materials, has been published in leading publication, Science.

Dr Diarmuid O’Brien, Executive Director, CRANN said:

This partnership with SABMiller highlights the applicability of nanoscience and its relevance to everyday products. Improving every consumable 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 6th globally for materials science.

He added that last year CRANN received over €5 million in non-Exchequer funding to progress research projects.

Read: Glass shape influences how quickly we drink alcohol>

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