Cold chain research at Cal Poly

Research funded by the Office of Naval Research evaluates thermal insulated packaging used for temperature-sensitive goods.

Research conducted during the 2008-2009 school year by the packaging department at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA, centers on cold chain packaging. Says Cal Poly packaging department head Dr. Jay Singh, “We are presently conducting research funded by the Office of Naval Research that evaluates the thermal insulated packaging used for products—typically pharmaceutical—that need to be maintained at the two-to-eight-degree Celsius range.”

Singh shared the following abstract of the research: “Thermal abuse is a primary concern during the distribution of temperature-sensitive goods such as pharmaceutical, food, and chemical products. Insulated packaging can maintain product temperatures within acceptable ranges and slow down the deterioration of the product in the distribution environment until it reaches the consumer. In addition to a high resistance to the transfer of heat (R-value), a good insulating material must have various characteristics, depending upon the application.

“For packaging applications, low cost, low moisture susceptibility, ease of fabrication and transportation, consumer appeal, and mechanical strength are the most relevant characteristics.

“Cold chain solutions typically involve excessive packaging to ensure that the desired product temperature is maintained through distribution, thereby increasing the logistics-related costs. Those costs are estimated to be six times that of the package itself. There are numerous solutions available for shipping temperature-sensitive products that include a variety of packaging materials as well as refrigerants.

“Though characteristics such as the R-values of package systems and the melting points and heat absorption rates of various refrigerants have been studied in the past, none of those studies has evaluated the effect of distribution (vibration, shocks, ambient temperature, etc.) on the reliability of the cold chain packaging solutions.

“This research proposes to study temperature profiles for factors such as the different densities for a given thickness of packaging material, wall thicknesses, package closure designs, payload and surface area, refrigerant types and amounts, product characteristics, and distribution environments.

“The results will be decisive in designing cost-efficient and practical single-use cold chain transportation solutions for temperature-sensitive products.”
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