Oxygen Absorbers – 5 Earnest Points Need To Know

Introduce to Oxygen Absorbers

An oxygen absorber is one of the most effective ways to remove oxygen present in food packets, also knows as oxygen scavengers, it improves product shelf life.

They are enclosed in the packaging of perishable items to enhance their quality. Oxygen absorbers are usually held in porous packets or as a film or sheet.

They mainly consist of iron powder, carbon, or sodium to absorb moisture or oxygen from the air depending on the purpose of use.

How They Work

When these oxygen-absorbing packets are in a sealed environment, they absorb all the oxygen present.

It creates a nitrogen environment that can promote the long shelf life of a product. As such, they are mainly useful for long-term food storage.

The absorbing packets work by the process of oxidation. Oxidation is when a metal reacts with the oxygen present in the air to form a metal oxide. With iron, the metal oxide formed is iron oxide.

When the packages are open, the moisture present reacts with the iron powder inside the absorbing medium. It triggers a chemical reaction that causes the iron fillings to rust.

Most absorbers use sodium to amplify the rusting process to absorb the oxygen even at lower humidity.

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When the moisture reacts with iron, oxygen reacts with iron to form single iron oxide. This process minimizes the total amount of oxygen present inside the container or packaging.

Factor Affecting Performance Of The Absorber:

Factor Affecting Performance Of The Absorber
Factor Affecting Performance Of The Absorber
  • Humidity: Iron powder begins rusting only after a specific amount of relative humidity present in the surrounding atmosphere. Sodium acts as a catalyst to stimulate the rusting process even at lower humidity to counter this.
  • Temperature: Ambient temperature also plays a role in regulating the amount of oxygen absorbed by the container’s packets.

What Is The Composition Of The Absorbers?

  • Iron Powder: The oxygen is lesser in the surrounding atmosphere because of iron’s reaction with moisture. The oxygen present in the water reacts with iron to form iron oxide. It helps in reducing the amount of oxygen significantly.
  • Sodium: Sodium acts as a reaction catalyst to allow the iron to undergo the rusting process under much lower humidity. Without sodium, iron will undergo rusting only at about 65% of the total relative humidity.
  • Activated Carbon: Activated charcoal or activated carbon is used in the packing to allow the gaseous medium to pass through and come in contact with carbon.

They are mainly porous, and most impurities are absorbed. It significantly reduces many odors and smells.

How Safe Are These Absorbers?

Oxygen absorbers are perhaps one of the most effective ways to reduce the oxygen content in the packaging. They come with a porous packet that allows moisture and oxygen to go through but secure enough to not let the iron rust leak out.

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Furthermore, they won’t contaminate the food even if they are in direct contact with it.

Things To Look Out For To Make These Absorbing Packets Work More Effectively:

  • Place The Opened Packets Inside The Container Quickly: One of the most common problems of the oxygen-absorbing packets is that they are not placed inside the containers soon enough.

Opening them before use will get these packets to absorb the surrounding moisture and as such, will be less effective when placed in the jar or container after a long time.

Make sure to understand that these little packets will start functioning immediately as soon as they are open.

  • Not Understanding That The Packets Have Reached Their Limit: Reusing absorbing packets can be less effective as these packets have a limit.

The identification of these limits will depend upon the company or the manufacturer. Individual companies have colored pills that change depending upon the expiry of these packets.

Another way to find out whether the packages have been fully used is to feel it. A loose powdery feel indicates that they are in a functional condition, whereas a hard and solid feel means that these packets are nearly over.

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Benefits Of Absorbing Packets:

Benefits Of Absorbing Packets
Benefits Of Absorbing Packets
  • They help retain the freshness and crispiness of many fruits and vegetables.
  • They prevent the oxidation of various vitamins present in the perishables.
  • They extend the life of medicines.
  • Lack of oxidation reduces the number of pests or insects in the surrounding areas.

Various Applications Of Oxygen Absorbers:

Various Applications Of Oxygen Absorbers
Various Applications Of Oxygen Absorbers
  • Used in the dairy industry to keep many dairy products fresh.
  • Pharmaceutical companies use them to increase the shelf life of pills and medicines.
  • In food industries and bakeries, it is used to keep nuts, fruits, vegetables, spices, and other edibles fresh and enable these perishable items to last longer without contamination.
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