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Title:
THERMALLY MODIFIED CONTAINERS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2012/003543
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A container (10) for maintaining foodstuffs above or below a predetermined temperature for a predetermined length of time includes a base (18) and four side walls (12, 14, 16, 64) defining a cavity (28) for location of the foodstuffs, and a lid (20) adapted to co-operate with the side walls (12, 14, 16, 64) to seal the cavity (28). Each of the base (18), side walls (12, 14, 16, 64) and lid (20) contain thermally sensitive material (56, 58, 60, 62). The container (10) may be placed into a refrigerator or freezer for a predetermined time, then removed and a foodstuff such as a tub of yoghurt Is placed in the cavity (28). The lid (20) then seals the cavity (28).

Inventors:
JAYASINHE, Rory (Suite 3, Malvern RoadGlen Iris, VIC 3146, 1501-1503, AU)
Application Number:
AU2011/000857
Publication Date:
January 12, 2012
Filing Date:
July 07, 2011
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
MERACOMM PTY. LTD (Suite 3, Malvern RoadGlen Iris, VIC 3146, 1501-1503, AU)
JAYASINHE, Rory (Suite 3, Malvern RoadGlen Iris, VIC 3146, 1501-1503, AU)
International Classes:
A47J41/00; B65D81/18; B65D81/38; F25D3/08
Domestic Patent References:
WO2008133374A1
WO1993003315A1
Foreign References:
US20090220178A1
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
A TATLOCK & ASSOCIATES (PO Box 153, Carlton South, VIC 3053, AU)
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Claims:
Claims 1. A container for maintaining foodstuffs above or below a predetermined temperature for a predetermined length of time, said container including a base and at least one side wall defining a cavity for location of said foodstuffs, and a lid adapted to co-operate with said or each side wall to seal said cavity, characterized in that each of said base, side wall and lid contain thermally sensitive material. 2. A container according to claim 1 , characterized in that said thermally sensitive material forms an inner layer, the temperature of said thermally sensitive material being able to be modified by cooling or heating. 3. A container according to claim 1 or claim 2, characterized in that said lid is attached or attachable to said or each side wall. 4. A container according to any preceding claim, characterized in that said or each wall said base and said lid are all formed from a soft material. 5. A container according to claim 4, characterized in that said container is adapted to contain in said cavity a standard tub of yoghurt. 6. A container according to any one of claims 1 to 3, characterized in that said or each wall said base and said lid are all formed from a hard material. 7. A container according to any preceding claim, characterized in that said thermally sensitive material is a coolant which is adapted to chill to a specific temperature as determined by a freezer, refrigerator, or the like. 8. A container according to claim 7, characterized in that said coolant is

adapted to maintain temperatures well below the freezing point of water for a required time. 9. A container according to any preceding claim, characterized in that said thermally sensitive material is associated with a material able to be heated in a microwave oven or other such device. A container according to any preceding claim, characterized in that said or each side wail and said base are integral.

Description:
THERMALLY MODIFIED CONTAINERS

Technical Field

This invention relates to a portable container for items for which thermal control is required. In particular, the invention relates to a container for foodstuffs which may need to be either chilled, kept frozen or kept warm or hot.

Background Art

It is well known for food containers to have insulation means to prevent heat exchange with the environment and hence maintain food in the container at a fairly constant temperature for a period of time of the order of a few hours. Often a heat source/sink is placed in the container to assist in maintaining a satisfactory temperature.

Containers of this type typically utilise reflecting surfaces to avoid radiant heat transfer through the container walls, or utilise padding, either with or without inner air pockets, to reduce the efficiency of heat transfer through the container walls.

Another approach is to provide removable layers of a material which can be cooled in a freezer and placed inside the container walls as required. Similar such devices can also be heated and used to keep container contents warm for a period of time. While this method does permit a chosen temperature to be initially provided in a food storage container there is the disadvantage that components have to be separately heated or cooled before being reassembled in the container walls which is a time consuming process.

AU 200197223 discloses a collapsible container having a number of walls Which are movable relative to one another between a collapsed configuration tn which at least a major surface of at least two of the walls are in contact with each other, and an expanded configuration in which the walls define a cavity adapted to receive an article to be kept cool. The walls contain a casing containing saline water as a coolant, but neither the base nor the top flap contains a coolant. The container in its collapsed configuration is adapted to be placed in a freezer or refrigerator, and then removed when the coolant has been cooled to a desirable temperature, and the container erected into its expanded configuration.

US 2005/0132741 discloses a thermal energy storage container in which thermal energy storage material is located in the walls and base in a space between two panels.

It is an object of this invention to substantially overcome these problems by providing an insulating food storage container device which can be coofed or heated in a unitary fashion without dismantling and reassembling the device.

Disclosure of the Invention The Invention provides a container for maintaining foodstuffs above or below a predetermined temperature for a predetermined length of time, said container including a base and at least one side wall defining a cavity for location of said foodstuffs, and a lid adapted to co-operate with said or each side wall to seal said cavity, characterized in that each of said base, side wall and lid contain thermally sensitive material .

Preferably, the thermally modifiable container of the present invention has a body including a base, top and sides at least one of which is provided with an inner layer of a thermally sensitive material the temperature of which can be modified by cooling or heating. It is preferred that base, top and sides of the container are provided with an inner layer of thermally sensitive material.

It Is further preferred that the container otthe Invention be provided with either soft or hard sides.

It is also preferred that the container top take the form of a lid attached or attachable to the remainder of the body. It is preferred that for cooling purposes the thermally sensitive material be a coolant which is adapted to chill to a specific temperature as determined by a freezer or the like.

It is further preferred that for some applications the coolant be able to maintain temperatures well below the freezing point of water for a required time.

It is also preferred that the thermally sensitive material be associated with a material able to be heated in a microwave oven or other such device. The precise heating or cooling means used Is not however restricted in the invention.

The invention in a second preferred embodiment is a thermally modifiable container having a body at least part of which is provided with an inner layer of a thermally sensitive material the temperature of which can be modified by cooling or heating said body having an upper and a lower surface either or both of which are open.

It is preferred that this embodiment of the invention include reusable sleeves or covers or casings, including soft or hard shell covers (made of various fabrics including nylon, PE, PU, various plastics, neoprene and so on, but not confined to these materials) having an outer and inner wall, the cavity being filled with a material having thermal properties for cooling/ warming.

It may be preferred that an embodiment of the invention have an inner nylon wall and outer neoprene wall.

It may further be preferred that the outer walls be printed with logos or designs.

Brief Description of the Drawings

Fig. 1 is a perspective view of a first embodiment of a thermally modified container according to the present invention, showing the container with its lid closed;

Fig. 2 is a perspective view of the container of Fig. 1 , showing the container with its lid open; Fig. 3 is a cross-section along the lines 3-3 of Fig. 1 ;

Fig, 4 is a perspective view of a second embodiment of a thermally modified container according to the present invention, showing the container with Its lid attached to the main body of the container; Fig. 5 is a side elevation of the container of Fig. 4;

Fig. 6 is a perspective view of the container of Fig. 5, showing the container with its lid separated from the main body of the container;

Fig. 7 is a top plan view of the container of Figs. 4 and 5; and

Fig, 8 is a cross-section along the lines 8-8 of Fig. 7.

Description of the Best Mode for Carrying Out the Invention The invention generally contemplates a container with a body having sides, a base and a top or lid, which container has at least one of these features being provided with a coolant.

In a preferred embodiment of the Invention all sides and the top and base of the container are provided with inner layers of coolant although the invention is not restricted with respect to the number of surfaces associated with the coolant.

The material from which the exterior of the container is fabricated is preferably a good thermal insulator although the Invention is not restricted to any particular material.

In one embodiment of the invention the container is manufactured of a soft material and in another from a stiff material although combinations may be preferred. Turning now to the embodiment of Figs. 1 to 3, there is shown a thermally modified container 10 having a generally cuboidal shape. Of course, it is understood that the container 10 could be of any shape. For example, it could be a generally cylindrical shape. The container 10 has side walls 12, 14, 16 and 64, a base 18 and a lid 20. In a cylindrical version, there would only be one cylindrical side wall.

The lid 20 may be removably secured to the side walls 12, 14, 16, 64 by means of a zip fastener 22, operable by a slider 24. Any other suitable means of reversibly attaching the lid 20 to the side walls 12, 14, 16, 64 may be utilised. Side walls 12, 14, 16, 64 and base 18 define a cavity 28 which is adapted to contain an article such as a foodstuff. One particular foodstuff which container 10 is adapted to contain is a standard tub of yoghurt For that application, a spoon 30 may be provided, removably attached to the underside of lid 20 by a strap 32.

In container 10 of Figs. 1 to 3, the external and internal surfaces of side walls 12, 14, 16, 64, base 18 and lid 20 are formed from a soft material, preferably a plastics material, more preferably a thermoplastics material such as polyester,

polypropylene, polyethylene, PVC, nylon or the like. Internal surfaces or layers such as layers 38, 40, 42 and 44 are preferably formed from such a material which is non-toxic and food safe. The various elements of side walls 12, 14, 16, 64, base 18 and lid 20 may be secured together by any suitable means. In Figs. 1 to 3, those elements are sewn, as shown by reference numeral 34.

Turning now to Fig. 3, it can be seen that each of side walls 12, 14, 16, 64, base 18 and lid 20 consist of an inner layer of sheet material and an outer layer of sheet material. Exemplary inner layers are shown in Fig. 3 as 38 for wall 12, 40 for wall 16, 42 for base 18 and 44 for lid 20. The detail of part of side wall 12, shown in Fig. 3, will now be described on the understanding that the structure described for wall 12 is the same for walls 14, 16, and 64, and for base 18 and lid 20. On the inside of outer layer 54 of side wall 12 is an insulating layer, comprised of a foam layer 52, and a layer of aluminium foil 50 on the inner face of foam layer 52, the aluminium foil layer 50 being bonded to the foam layer 52. A pocket 48 is defined between the bonded layers 52, 50 and inner layer 38, in which may be located a thermally sensitive material, preferably in the form of a pack 56, which may be a gel pack of a conventional nature or a crystal pack or the like. Similar packs of thermally sensitive material are located in pockets in the other side walls, one of which (58) Is shown In Fig. 3 In a pocket In side wall 16. A further similar pack of thermally sensitive material 62 is located in a pocket in base 18, and another pack 60 in a pocket in lid 20, as shown in Fig. 3.

The packs 56, 58, 60, 62 are shown as being permanently located within the side walls 12, 14, 16, 64, base 18 and lid 20, although the container 10 may be so constructed to make one or more of the packs removable. In container 10, the packs 56, 58, 60, 62 are placed in what will become a pocket like pocket 48 in walls 12, 14, 16, 64, base 18 and Iid20, when the elements of those features are secured together, for example by being sewn together.

The container is used as follows, in the example of keeping a tub of yoghurt below a predetermined temperature such that the yoghurt in maintained in an acceptable condition for consumption. The container 10 is placed in a refrigerator, or preferably a freezer, for enough time for the thermally sensitive material in gel packs reaches a minimum temperature. When the container 10 is required, it is removed from the refrigerator or freezer, and a tub of yoghurt, which has preferably also been kept in a cool environment such as a refrigerator, placed in cavity 28. The slider 24 Is then used to actuate the zip fastener 22 to seal the cavity 28.

As there are gel packs such as 56, 58, 60 and 62 in each of the side walls 12, 14, 16, 64, base 18 and lid 20, the tub of yoghurt is surrounded by coldness, and accordingly will be maintained for many hours in ambient temperatures, keeping the yoghurt In a fir state to be consumed. When it is desired to consume the yoghurt, the slider 24 is used to open zip 22. The tub of yoghurt (not shown) is removed, opened, and may be consumed with the spoon 30. Of course, the foodstuff may be any foodstuff, and the present Invention is not limited to keeping yoghurt cool. The container 10 may also be used to keep foodstuffs warm.

Figs. 4 to 8 show a second embodiment of a thermally modified container of the present invention. The container 100 is formed from a hard material, although it is not limited to such a material. It could be formed from a soft material. Preferably, the container is formed form a relatively hard thermoplastics material of the type used in conventional domestic kitchen containers. The rigid container 100 could be formed by a moulding process such as rotomoulding. Container 100 has a rounded base 102 and a domed lid 104, and is circular in cross-section, as shown in Fig, 7. However, any shape or configuration may be used. Base 102 has a cavity 122 which, when base 102 and lid are secured together (Fig. 8), includes the additional volume defined by lid 104.

As shown in Figs. 6 and 8, the lid 104 may be removably secured to base 102 through the engagement and disengagement of a peripheral lip 108 on base 102 with a peripheral groove 106 on lid 104. Any other suitable connection means may be used. For example, there may be a screw connection between lid 104 and base 102.

Fig. 8 shows that base 102 has an outer wall 10 and an inner wall 112 defining a space in which is located a thermally sensitive material 114 such as a coolant, preferably of the type used in blocks cooled in a freezer for use in an insulated container. Lid 104 has an outer wall 116 and an inner wall 118 defining a space in which is located a thermally sensitive material 120 such as a coolant, preferably of the type used in blocks cooled in a freezer for use in an insulated container. The placement of the coolant 1 14, 120 may take place during the moulding process for the container 100, or subsequently before walls 110, 112 and 116, 118 are sealed together. In use, the container is located in a refrigerator or freezer as described earlier in this specification in relation to the embodirnent of Figs. 1 to 3. When removed, the lid 104 may be separated from the base 102, and an item to be kept cool placed in cavity 122. Lid 104 is then secured to base 102, It can be seen that once again, the item such as a foodstuff, located in cavity 122, is surrounded by coolant in the lid 104 and base 102, which has been brought to a minimum temperature. As a result the item will be kept cooler for a longer period of time than with a conventional container of the general type described in this specification. in the embodiments of the Invention described in this specification, the container 10 or 100 is preferably dimensioned to fit into conventional freezers for cooling, although any preferred size and shape of the container may be chosen. Rigid container 100 could be in the form of a jar with a screw top or any other cylindrical device as well as all rectangular type shapes.

While it is preferred that the top surface of the container 10, 100 be a lid which is able to be be fastened to the remainder of the container body any appropriate closure means can be used.

It is envisaged that a well insulated version of the container of the invention could be associated with a coolant capable of sustaining very low temperatures such that frozen products could remain frozen in it while non-frozen products would freeze.

A further embodiment of the Invention contemplates an arrangement wherein the coolant has associated with it a material which is capable of being heated in a microwave oven or other such device. It is envisaged that this material could either be located with the coolant or located outside it within the container 10 or 100. In this embodiment the container 10, 100 would be capable of keeping food warm or hot rather than acting as a cooler.

In a further embodiment of the invention at least one of the upper and lower Surfaces of the container is open. The resultant container is either a sleeve or cover which is stored in a freezer until ready for use. The food or drink item (usually already cold) is then placed inside the sleeve so as to keep the food product cold for a specified period of time.

Examples of uses of this embodiment of the invention and the embodiments of Figs. 1 to 3 and 4 to 8, are use on food products (including cheese sticks, chocolate bars, sandwiches, yoghurts, ice cream and the like) and use around drink or water bottles, beverages (Including non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages, either cans or bottles) cups, glasses, wine glasses etc.

It is envisaged that this embodiment could also be used in the context of food containers, lunch boxes and the like. Another embodiment of this invention contemplates a disposable sealed pouch which has a crystal or gel or liquid concealed inside. When the crystal or gel or liquid is activated (either by crushing together or other means) this has the effect of turning the sealed pouch into a temporary cooler/warmer for a specified time period. The pouch is then disposed of after the effects of the coolant/ warmer has worn off. This Item can have the same uses as the reusable casing and can also be used on the same items as the reusable casings.

The entire contents of the specifications of Australian provisional patent applications nos. 2010903033, filed on 8 July 2010, and 2010903610, filed on 12 August 2010, are herewith incorporated into this specification.