This work describes the fabrication of antimicrobial multilayered polymeric films containing carvacrol (used as a model essential oil) by co-extrusion and multiplication technique. The microlayering process was utilized to produce films, with up to 65 alternating layers, of carvacrol-containing low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and ethylene vinyl alcohol copolymer (EVOH). Carvacrol was melt compounded with LDPE or loaded into halloysite nanotubes (HNTs) in a pre-compounding step prior film production. The detailed nanostructure and composition (in terms of carvacrol content) of the films were characterized and correlated to their barrier properties, carvacrol release rate, and antibacterial and antifungal activity. The resulting films exhibit high carvacrol content despite the harsh processing conditions (temperature of 200 °C and long processing time), regardless of the number of layers or the presence of HNTs. The multilayered films exhibit superior oxygen transmission rates and carvacrol diffusivity values that are more than two orders of magnitude lower in comparison to single-layered carvacrol-containing films (i.e., LDPE/carvacrol and LDPE/(HNTs/carvacrol)) produced by conventional cast extrusion. The (LDPE/carvacrol)/EVOH and (LDPE/[HNTs/carvacrol])/EVOH films demonstrated excellent antimicrobial efficacy against E. coli
and Alternaria alternata
in in vitro
micro-atmosphere assays and against A. alternata
in cherry tomatoes, used as the food model. The results presented here suggest that sensitive essential oils, such as carvacrol, can be incorporated into plastic polymers constructed of tailored multiple layers, without losing their antimicrobial efficacy.
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