Stories|Why does moist packaging become unstable - clarification with X-ray technology

Why does moist packaging become unstable - clarification with X-ray technology

New materials and analysis

Better boxes for more sustainable packaging

There is a huge demand for cardboard boxes and packaging materials. Many people have their shopping delivered to their home. However, the material used to make cardboard boxes poses challenges for logistics companies because it is susceptible to moisture and fluctuations in temperature. Time and again, goods become unusable because the packaging becomes soggy and thus loses its stability and moisture penetrates inside . The Swedish packaging company BillerudKorsnäs wants to put an end to this. Using the X-ray microscope PETRA III at DESY, it investigated the causes of the material fatigue when cardboard packaging is exposed to moisture.

A large proportion of goods around the world are shipped in boxes made of corrugated cardboard. And there is a big problem with these: they may become deformed or their contents may be damaged – especially if the cardboard becomes damp, and hence unstable, and the moisture gets inside. It is not unusual for the contents to become unusable, which means writing them off as a loss. At the very least, the recipient will refuse to accept them. So how can cardboard be strengthened effectively to better withstand water?

The Swedish packaging company BillerudKorsnäs used X-ray scattering experiments to get to the bottom of what causes corrugated cardboard boxes to lose their shape. With the support of the Swedish Innovation Agency Vinnova and in collaboration with the Research Institute Sweden (RISE), scientists used DESY’s X-ray microscope PETRA III to test cardboard samples under various stresses while controlling the temperature and humidity of the surroundings. The deformation was observed with high precision, right down to the atomic level of the cellulose crystals, and abundant data was recorded. Analysing this data is now providing the basis for developing more stable and sustainable cardboard packaging. This should significantly reduce the loss of goods and increase customer satisfaction. Last but not least, this will make cardboard an even better alternative to plastic, which is far more harmful to the environment.

Partners involved:

  • BillerudKorsnäs (company)
  • RISE (


Dr. Sabine Brock

Head of Industry Relations and Dpt. CTO

ContactSabine cropped


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