February 21, 2012
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.A Harvard University scientist has developed a new edible packaging technology that allows individuals to eat and transport food without plastic. Called WikiCells, the packaging encloses food and liquid in an edible membrane.
WikiCells was developed by David A. Edwards who also developed inhalable chocolate, inhalable caffeine and a tuberculosis vaccine in the form of a spray. For this project, he wanted to create a bottle based on how nature creates bottles, citing grapes as an example of one of nature's "bottles." WikiCells imitate such natural packaging by enclosing food and liquid in an edible membrane. The membrane, which is comprised of a charged polymer and food particles, is in turn protected by a hard shell which can be broken away much like that of an egg.
Edwards and his team have developed a variety of different platforms for WikiCells that can be served as meals, drinks and snacks, including a tomato membrane containing gazpacho soup that can be poured over bread; an orange membrane filled with orange juice that you can drink with a straw; smaller grape-like membrane holding wine; and a chocolate membrane containing hot chocolate.
Edwards plans to develop WikiCells further so they will someday be commercially available to the broader public.
"In the near term, we will be encountering WikiCells in restaurant settings," he said. After that, Edwards plans to expand WikiCells to specialty stores and supermarkets. Eventually, he hopes to develop a product platform for WikiCells that would allow individuals to produce their own edible bottles.
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