A new cooling cube that never melts could revolutionize how food is kept cooled and shipped.
The innovation, called jelly ice cubes, stays cold for up to 13 hours and can be reused again - it just needs to be rinsed and placed back into a freezer.
Not only are the cooling cubes reusable, but they eliminate cross-contamination that occurs with meltwater and mold found in plastic ice packs.
The jelly ice cubes came about after Luxin Wang, an associate professor at University of California, Davis and part of the research, saw the amount of ice used at fish-processing plants and the cross-contamination that meltwater could spread among products or down the drain.
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A new cooling cube that never melts could revolutionize how food is kept cooled and shipped
Gang Sun, a professor at the University of California, Davis and lead researcher, said in a statement: 'When ice melts, it's not reusable.
'We thought we could make a so-called solid ice to serve as a cooling medium and be reusable.'
Approximately 90 percent of the cooling cubes is made of water and are soft to the touch like a gelatin dessert when at room temperature.
Once frozen, the cubes become rigid and turn an opaque color.
Approximately 90 percent of the cooling cubes is made of water and are soft to the touch like a gelatin dessert when at room temperature
Once frozen, the cubes become rigid and turn an opaque color (left is a frozen cooling cube and right is it at room temperature)
And 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.
Sun showed an example of the jelly ice cubes in action during a video presentation.
She presented two petri dishes, each with a piece of fish on top of ice cubes or the new cooling cubes.
'With the jelly ice cubes, even after on hour, they stay in solid contact status,' said Sun.
Left image is a piece of fish on top of regular ice and right is fish on top of the cooling cubes. The examples were left out for one-hour, which shows the left has melted while the right kept its form
'But with regular ice, here the fish is soaked in a very big pot of water.'
These reusable cubes can be designed or cut to any shape and size needed, said Jiahan Zou, a Ph.D. graduate student who has been working on the project the past two years.
'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,' Sun added.
A patent for the design and concept was filed in July and the team hopes to use only recycled agriculture waste or byproduct as the coolant material.
'We want to make sure this is sustainable,' said Luxin Wang, an associate professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology.