What if we could ship refrigerated goods without the use of ice or traditional ice packs? This is the vision of UC Davis researchers who recently developed a new type of ice cube which does not melt and is compostable and anti-microbial.
The new cubes, called “jelly ice cubes” contain mostly water (90 percent), but also have stabilizing components which prevent them from melting or cross-contaminating other goods. They resemble gelatin and are soft to the touch. The cubes change color to indicate their temperature.
According to Jiahan Zou, a Ph.D. graduate student involved in the cubes’ development, the jelly-like substance can be cut into any shape or size and used for 13 hours before it gets rinsed and re-frozen for reuse. To make the cubes even more sustainable, the researchers are working to use recycled agriculture waste or byproducts as the coolant material for the cubes.
The inspiration for the cubes came from fish processing sites, where huge amounts of ice are used. This not only takes a lot of water, but it also leads to cross contamination and pathogens spread as the ice melts. While plastic ice packs are one alternative to actual ice, these are plastic intensive and also prone to mold growth. The jelly cubes on the other hand can withstand 22 pounds of weight without changing shape and can be reused a dozen times. At the end of their life, they can simply be composted for a zero-waste end of life.