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Jelly ice cubes are compostable and hygienic

USA: Scientists have developed a cooling cube that could revolutionise how food is kept cold and shipped fresh without relying on ice or traditional cooling packs.

The plastic-free, “jelly ice cubes” that do not melt have been developed by researchers at the University of California, Davis. They are compostable and anti-microbial, and prevent cross-contamination. They are also reusable and can be designed or cut to any shape and size required.

“When ice melts, it’s not reusable,” said Gang Sun, a professor in the university’s department of biological and agricultural engineering. “We thought we could make a so-called solid ice to serve as a cooling medium and be reusable.”

The cooling cubes contain more than 90% water and other components to retain and stabilise the structure. They are said to be soft to the touch like gelatin and change colour depending on temperature.

Jiahan Zou, a UC Davis PhD graduate student, holds one of the jelly ice cubes. Photo: Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis

“You can use it for 13 hours for cooling, collect it, rinse it with water and put it in the freezer to freeze again for the next use,” said Jiahan Zou, a student who has been working on the project for the past two years.

The researchers hope to eventually use recycled agriculture waste or byproduct as the coolant material.

Early tests have shown the cubes can withstand up to 22 pounds without losing form. They can be reused a dozen times — just a quick wash with water or diluted bleach — and then disposed of in the trash or with yard waste.

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