Reusable SMP Container System

Creators: Suyang Liang, Lizzie Newkirk, Yvonne Shi
Supervisor: Peter Yeadon
Collaborator: Mitchell Anthamattan, University of Rochester

This study proposes a system that uses Shape Memory Polymers (SMPs) as a sustainable packaging alternative for bulk foods at grocery stores. Since the smart material is easily reformable, it is an ideal material for a reusable container system. Customers swipe their membership card and place a pre-molded SMP container into the machine’s drawer. The machine clamps down on the SMP container, pressing a unique stamp into the rim, which can be scanned to learn more about the product. The container is stretched and filled to the desired amount; then it’s sealed and ready to go!
After the contents are consumed at home, the member returns the container to a kiosk for store credit. The container is washed with soap and hot water and, since SMPs react to heat, it rapidly returns to its original shape. An employee then restocks the containers in the bulk grocery area, and they would be stamped, stretched, and filled again according to the unique needs of the next customers who used them.

The demonstration prototype (at the top of this page) shows a flat sheet of SMP being stretched to become a container, and then returning to its original shape when it is immersed in hot water. A second demonstration (above) shows a graphic code being stamped into the material and then erased with hot water. This particular smart material was developed by our collaborator, Mitch Anthamatten at the University of Rochester.

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