Improvement of barrier and mechanical properties of whey protein isolate based food packaging films by incorporation of zein nanoparticles as a novel bionanocomposite
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In this study, whey protein isolate (WPI) based bio-nanocomposite films embedded with zein nanoparticles (ZNP) were prepared by solution casting. Nanoparticles were coated with sodium caseinate to obtain a uniform distribution in the films. The mechanical, water vapor barrier, surface wetting, morphological and viscoelastic properties of the films were investigated. The addition of ZNP significantly improved the water vapor barrier and mechanical properties of the WPI without adversely affecting the elongation of the films. Dynamical mechanical analysis and contact angle measurements revealed that upon addition of the nanoparticles, the fractional free volume and hydrophilicity of the WPI films decreased. Sodium caseinate containing both hydrophilic and hydrophobic groups created an efficient interface between the hydrophobic ZNP and hydrophilic WPI matrix, allowing for a homogeneous distribution of nanoparticles even at very high loading levels as evidenced by the scanning electron microscope (SEM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) images. The WPI/ZNP nanocomposite films can potentially become effective food packaging materials.