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Scientists create reusable 'jelly' ice cubes

Monday, December 6th 2021, 1:15 pm - Scientists say the invention could revolutionize cold food storage.

A team at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) has created plastic-free, antimicrobial, reusable, 'jelly' ice cubes that don't melt.

The cooling cubes, comprised of more than 90 per cent water, are soft to the touch and change colour depending on their temperature. They can be cut into any shape or size, Jiahan Zou, a Ph.D. graduate student who has been working on the project, said in a statement, and they can create a cooling effect for up to 13 hours. After that, they can be rinsed and placed in the freezer again for future use.

The cubes can be reused about a dozen times, and then, being fully compostable, can be discarded alongside yard waste.

The team hopes to eventually use agricultural waste to produce the coolant material, making them more sustainable.

Researchers say the jelly cubes provide several benefits over traditional ice or cold storage equipment.

The product provides a stable temperature, and its anti-microbial qualities prevent cross-contamination. Lab tests suggest that when ice melts, it can spread germs into food, while the cubes remain solid, reducing the risk.

If used on a large scale, they could potentially reduce water consumption and environmental impact, researchers say.

COLD STORAGE INDUSTRY EXPANDING

The innovation comes as the cold food storage industry is in the midst of significant growth. Valued at US 107 billion in 2020, industry watchers predict it could experience an annual growth rate of 13.5 per cent between 2021 and 2028, thanks to increased government regulations over the production and distribution of cold-stored foods.

A November 2021 report by Precedence Research predicts the global cold food storage industry could reach US 330 billion by 2030.

Thumbnail image courtesy: Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis

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