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British scientists develop alternative to aluminium can

August 19, 1998
Webposted at 2:00 PM EDT

(CNN) -- Researchers in Britain have invented a carbonated soft drink can made of paper. It's the first time anyone has used paper to hold pressurized beverages.

Richard Freeman and his colleagues at Cambridge, England-based Scientific Generics made the can using thin sheets of cardboard.

"It is in fact in four layers, and the critical thing is the seams are actually rotated. They are at least 90 degrees out of phase with each other so that the weak spots - which are usually the seams - are actually staggered. They're rotated. And the thickness, a section through, at no point is the material less than three thicknesses."

Every day, millions of aluminium drink cans are crumpled up and dumped in the trash. Recycling plants do a good job containing the damage to the environment with the vast majority of aluminum containers being melted down into re-usable metal.

Freeman says the new cans are not only good for the environment but could be a boon to developing nations.

"Cardboard is the truly renewable packaging material, and in the developed countries that's a very good thing. It cuts down on energy consumption. It cuts down on carbon dioxide evolution. For developing countries, it also makes sense because the materials from which you make cans at the moment, which are either steel or aluminium, are actually not that easy to access in Third World countries. Aluminium's a virtual impossibility in many cases, and that gives major problems to having a canned drinks industry in places like Africa and India."

Its makers claim the can is much stronger than metal. A thin coat of aluminium is sprayed on the inside of the container to make it airtight. Freeman says the cans have withstood pressures of five atmospheres, much higher than the pressure that aluminum cans are expected to withstand.

Scientific Generics is looking for partners to help develop the new can.

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