Title:
Oxygen absorbing appliance
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An oxygen absorbing appliance includes a container body having a bottom wall, a peripheral wall and a peripheral rim. The appliance further includes a closure member to matingly engage the peripheral rim. The appliance further includes an oxygen absorber composition for removing oxygen within the container and an oxygen detector circuit for indicating the presence or absence of oxygen.



Inventors:
Cheng, Bob H. P. (WangChai, HK)
Application Number:
11/029991
Publication Date:
07/06/2006
Filing Date:
01/05/2005
Assignee:
Lifetime Hoan Corporation (Westbury, NY, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D55/02
View Patent Images:
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20020162816Bottle-feeding babiesNovember, 2002Walsh
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20060123605Beverage container identification clipJune, 2006Adair
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Primary Examiner:
MEHRAVARI, PETER CYRUS
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
JENKENS & GILCHRIST, PC (1445 ROSS AVENUE, SUITE 3200, DALLAS, TX, 75202, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An oxygen absorbing appliance comprising: a container body including a bottom wall, a peripheral wall and a peripheral rim; a closure member having a peripheral edge adapted to matingly engage the peripheral rim; an oxygen absorber composition; and an oxygen detector circuit.

2. The appliance of claim 1, wherein the container body is adapted for storing products.

3. The appliance of claim 2, wherein the products comprise food articles.

4. The appliance of claim 3, wherein the products comprise beverages.

5. The appliance of claim 2, wherein the container body is made from plastic.

6. The appliance of claim 5, wherein the container body is substantially transparent.

7. The appliance of claim 6, wherein the container body is substantially translucent.

8. The appliance of claim 1, wherein the container body is made from aluminum.

9. The appliance of claim 1, wherein the oxygen absorber composition is adapted for absorbing oxygen from a space within the container body.

10. The appliance of claim 9, wherein the oxygen absorber composition comprises a mixture of powdered iron and charcoal.

11. The appliance of claim 1, wherein the oxygen absorber composition is placed on a carrier and placed within the container.

12. The appliance of claim 1, wherein the oxygen detector circuit further includes: a zinc-air battery that reacts with oxygen to produce a potential difference across a plurality of electrodes of the battery; an electronic device for detecting the potential difference; and a response indicator providing an oxygen indication responsive to the detected potential difference.

13. The appliance of claim 12, wherein the electronic device comprises a DC voltage sensor.

14. The appliance of claim 13, wherein the response indicator comprises a Light Emitting Diode (LED) that emits light responsive to the presence of oxygen.

15. The appliance of claim 13, wherein the response indicator comprises a buzzer that produces a buzzing sound responsive to the presence of oxygen.

16. An oxygen detector circuit comprising: a zinc-air battery that reacts with oxygen to produce a potential difference across a plurality of electrodes of the battery; an electronic device for detecting the potential difference; and a response indicator providing an oxygen indication responsive to the detected potential difference.

17. The circuit of claim 16, wherein the potential difference is compared to a threshold voltage by the electronic device.

18. The circuit of claim 17, wherein when the potential difference exceeds the threshold voltage, the electronic devices generates an output signal.

19. The circuit of claim 18, wherein the electronic device comprises a DC voltage sensor.

20. The circuit of claim 19, wherein the response indicator comprises a Light Emitting Diode (LED) that emits light responsive to the presence of oxygen.

21. The circuit of claim 20, wherein the response indicator comprises a buzzer that produces a buzzer sound responsive to the presence of oxygen.

22. An apparatus for retarding oxidation of wine that partially fills a container formed with an opening through which the wine can be poured, the apparatus comprising: a closure member for mating with the opening; an oxygen absorber composition placed at a first region within the closure member; and an oxygen detector circuit placed at a second region within the closure member.

23. The apparatus of claim 22, wherein the container body comprises a bottle.

24. The apparatus of claim 23, wherein the closure member is shaped to mate with a mouth portion of the container.

25. The apparatus of claim 24, wherein the closure member is shaped to represent a wine glass.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Technical Field

The present invention relates in general to food/beverage preservation appliances and more specifically to appliances for absorbing oxygen from air or any other substance within a product storage container. In particular, the present invention relates to an oxygen absorbing appliance having a storage container, an oxygen absorber composition, and an oxygen detector circuit for detecting the presence or absence of oxygen in the container.

2. History of Related Art

Many products are susceptible to putrefaction, mold growth, spoilage, rancidity, oxidation, or other deterioration when brought into contact with oxygen. Examples of such objects include beer, wine, juice, vinegar, sauces, seasoning, processed foods, bread, produce, meats, and certain pharmaceuticals and chemicals, among a variety of other products. Preservation of such products is disturbed when molds, bacteria, and other organisms that thrive in the presence of oxygen are present. These organisms cause the putrefaction and change in the taste or quality of the products. To prevent such oxidation and growth of organisms and thus increase the preservation stability of those products, oxygen must be removed from a product storage container.

One technique for avoiding or reducing the presence of oxygen is vacuum packaging. This process involves evacuating the container before placing the product in the container. Another technique is gas displacement. According to this technique, an inert gas (e.g., nitrogen) is used to displace the air and hence the oxygen in the container. This displacement of air can be performed before or after the product is placed in the container.

Another technique for reducing the presence of oxygen is a foaming method. In particular, the foaming method is applicable to products such as beer. According to this method, a jet foamer can be used to inject a small amount of pressurized water to foam the beer after charging the beer into the container. The foam functions as a mechanical deoxidizer, forcing the oxygen from the container.

A more efficient technique for oxygen removal involves placing an oxygen absorbent in the container with the product. The oxygen absorbent is placed on an underside of a cap and is held in place by a cover layer of gas permeable film that prevents contact between the absorbent and the contents of the container.

None of the prevalent prior art solutions provide an effective means for providing a physical response to monitor the level of oxygen present in the container without actually opening the lid of the container.

Therefore, there is a need for a means for providing a physical response or a physical indication such that a user can monitor the level of oxygen present in the container.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

An oxygen absorbing appliance includes a container body having a bottom wall, a peripheral wall and a peripheral rim. The appliance further includes a closure member to matingly engage the peripheral rim. The appliance further includes an oxygen absorber composition for removing oxygen within the container and an oxygen detector circuit for detecting and providing an indication of the presence or absence of oxygen.

In another embodiment of the present invention an apparatus for retarding oxidation of wine or other beverages within a container is disclosed. The apparatus includes a closure member for mating with an opening of the container. The apparatus further includes an oxygen absorber composition placed at a first region within the closure member and an oxygen detector circuit placed at a second region within the closure member for detecting and providing an indication of the presence or absence of oxygen.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A more complete understanding of the present invention may be obtained by reference to the following Detailed Description of Exemplary Embodiments of the Invention, when taken in conjunction with the accompanying Drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 illustrates a side view of an oxygen absorbing appliance illustrating an oxygen absorber composition and an oxygen detector circuit therein;

FIG. 2 illustrates in detail components of the oxygen detector circuit;

FIG. 3 illustrates a sectional view of a zinc-air battery;

FIG. 4 illustrates a diagram of a circuit of a DC voltage sensor;

FIG. 5 illustrates a side view of an alternate embodiment of the oxygen absorbing appliance;

FIG. 6 a side elevational view of an alternate embodiment of the oxygen absorbing appliance;

FIG. 7 illustrates a sectional view of a closure member;

FIG. 8 illustrates a side elevational view of a storage appliance according to an alternate embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 9 illustrates a side elevational view of the storage appliance according to another alternate embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

Embodiment(s) of the invention will now be described more fully with reference to the accompanying Drawings. The invention may, however, be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiment(s) set forth herein. The invention should only be considered limited by the claims as they now exist and the equivalents thereof.

With reference now to the drawings, and in particular to FIGS. 1-5 thereof, a novel oxygen absorbing appliance embodying the principles and concepts of the present invention and generally designated by the reference numeral 100 will be described. While the embodiments described herein are intended as an exemplary oxygen absorbing appliance 100 for absorbing oxygen present in the atmosphere of a food storage container, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the present invention is not limited for absorbing oxygen from the air in the container, and may be employed for absorbing oxygen from any substance in the container (e.g., beverages or other products as described herein).

Referring now to FIGS. 1-4, an embodiment of the oxygen absorbing appliance 100 of the present invention will be described in detail. The oxygen absorbing appliance 100 includes a container body 102 and an associated closure member 104 (e.g., lid, cap, etc.). The container body 102 further includes a bottom wall 108 and a peripheral wall 106 with a rim 114 extending about the periphery of the container body 102. The closure member 104 is formed with a top surface 116 and a surrounding peripheral rim 118 which is designed to mate with the rim 114 of the container body 102.

The oxygen absorbing appliance 100 of the present invention further includes an oxygen absorber composition 110. According to an embodiment of the present invention, the term “oxygen absorber composition” in the specification relates to an agent for absorbing or removing oxygen present in the interior atmosphere of the container 102. According to another embodiment of the present invention, the oxygen absorber composition 110 is also capable of removing oxygen from a substance or product within the container 102 (e.g., beverages). The oxygen absorber composition 110 comprises a mixture of powdered iron mixed with charcoal. The iron may be hydrogen-reduced iron, electrolytically reduced iron, or chemically reduced iron. Typically, the composition 110 of iron powder and charcoal are mixed together and then placed on a suitable carrier such as a piece of cotton cloth, gas permeable film, a piece of cotton gauze, a cotton ball, or any other suitable carrier.

The appliance 100 further includes an oxygen detector circuit 112 which will be described in detail with reference to FIGS. 2-4. The circuit 112 produces an electrical current in the presence of oxygen and powers a response indicator 206 (e.g., LED, buzzer, etc.). In the absence of oxygen or when the level of oxygen in the container is insignificant, the circuit 112 does not produce the electrical current and thus does not power the response indicator 206. In short, when the response indicator 206 is activated, the level of oxygen within the container 102 is significant, while the level of oxygen is insignificant when the response indicator 206 is deactivated.

FIG. 2 illustrates the oxygen detector circuit 112 in further detail. The circuit 112 comprises a battery 202 which functions as an oxygen sensor and a reference voltage source. According to an embodiment of the present invention, the battery 202 comprises a zinc-air battery. The circuit 112 further includes an electronic device 204 functioning as a voltage comparator and operable to provide a current signal to a response indicator 206 in the presence of oxygen. The response indicator 206 provides a visual, mechanical, audio, or an electromagnetic response indicating presence or absence of oxygen within the container 102. The details of the zinc-air battery 202, the oxygen detector circuit 112, and the response indicator 206 will now be described with reference to FIGS. 3-4.

FIG. 3 illustrates in detail a sectional view of the zinc-air battery 202 according to the present invention. According to an embodiment of the present invention, the zinc-air battery 202 functions as an oxygen sensor. The battery 202 is comprised in its most general form of a plastic or ceramic battery casing 302 divided into two sides, that is an anode side 304 and a cathode side 306. The battery 202 further illustrates a separating membrane 308 which divides and separates the anode side 304 and the cathode side 306. The anode 304 is usually comprised of granulated powder mixed with electrolyte and often employs a gelling agent to cause contact between the electrolyte and the zinc granules. The cathode 306 comprises of a zinc lump. The battery 202 comprises a strip of tape which prevents air from entering the battery 202. Once the tape is removed, oxygen from the air diffuses into the battery 202 through a plurality of holes, resulting in an open-circuit potential of approximately 1.4V across the electrodes. When current is drawn from the battery 202, a chemical reaction takes place that attempts to maintain the open-circuit voltage. Zinc is consumed at the cathode 306 while oxygen is consumed at the anode 304 by the following reactions:
Zn(metal)→Zn+2e
O2+2H2O+4e→DC

According to an embodiment of the present invention, the zinc-air battery 202 produces electrochemical energy or an electric current by using oxygen from the air within the container 102. When there is sufficient amount of oxygen present in the container 102, the battery 202 produces a voltage which is compared to a threshold voltage by the electronic device 204. When the battery voltage exceeds the threshold voltage, the electronic device 204 generates an output signal to activate the response indicator 206. However, if all the oxygen has been absorbed or the level of oxygen has fallen to an insignificant level, the battery voltage drops below the threshold voltage because there is no chemical reaction and the device 204 does not produce the output signal. Thus, the response indicator 206 remains deactivated.

FIG. 4 illustrates in greater detail the electronic device 204 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The electronic device 204 comprises a DC voltage sensor 400 for detecting the voltage across the zinc-air battery 202 and comparing that voltage to the threshold. The DC voltage sensor 400 only measures the voltage across the zinc-air battery 202 and receives minimal power from the battery 202 itself. According to an embodiment of the present invention, the DC voltage sensor 400 is powered by a set of alkaline batteries connected to the VDD and GND terminals. The response indicator 206 is a common feature for the voltage sensors and is connected to the OUT terminal. The response indicator 206 can be a simple analog display or gauge, a numeric or alphanumeric readout, an audio output or any other means to indicate the presence of the desired voltage. The response indicator 206 is capable of providing a physical response which includes visual, mechanical, audio, and electromagnetic responses. According to an embodiment of the present invention, the response indicator 206 comprises a Light Emitting Diode (LED) that can be connected to the electronic device 204 to emit light and provide a visual response in the presence of oxygen.

According to another embodiment of the present invention, the response indicator 206 comprises a buzzer which provides an audible indication of the presence or absence of oxygen. According to yet another embodiment of the present invention, the response indicator 206 comprises a vibration means which provides a mechanical indication to the presence or absence of oxygen.

According to an embodiment of the present invention, the oxygen absorber 110 and the detector circuit 112 as illustrated in FIG. 1 may be adapted to be placed on an underside of the closure member 104 of the container 102. Typically, the oxygen absorber composition 110 (mixture of powdered iron mixed and charcoal) is mounted on a suitable carrier such as a piece of cotton cloth, gauze, cotton ball or film. According to an embodiment of the present invention, the carrier and the circuit 112 are retained on the underside of the closure member 104 by some type of a retainer means. Additionally, it may be desirable to encase the carrier and circuit 112 within an oxygen permeable plastic film to prevent contact with the contained product (e.g., food articles). The film (gas permeable film) has a plurality of fine openings or holes and is gas-permeable, but water-impermeable. According to an embodiment of the present embodiment, the size of openings in the film may be in the range of 0.01-0.45 microns. The oxygen permeable film may be made of plastics, such as polyethylene, polypropylene, and the like. According to an embodiment of the present invention, the closure member 104 can be formed from a variety of different materials such as plastics (polyvinylchloride, polystyrene, or polycarbonate) and may be substantially transparent or translucent. According to yet another exemplary embodiment, the closure member 104 can be formed from a metallic material (e.g., aluminum).

The composition 110 (mixture of powdered iron mixed and charcoal) on the carrier is adapted for absorbing oxygen from the air within the container 102 thereby to prevent oxidation of the contents within the container 102. When the composition 110 is exposed to air, the composition will create a chain reaction. In the first step, iron reacts with oxygen from the air within the container 102 to produce ferric oxide and heat. This phenomenon is referred to as rusting and is illustrated by the following equation:
4Fe+3O2→2Fe2O3

As the reaction continues, heat is produced, and at a certain temperature, carbon reacts with oxygen from the air to produce carbon dioxide and more heat. The reaction of carbon with oxygen is illustrated by the following equation:
C+O2→CO2

Since the rusting process increases the temperature, a chain reaction takes place until all the iron is used up to remove oxygen within the container 102 and produce rust. The chain reaction further stops when oxygen is no longer present.

The container 102 according to an embodiment of the present invention can be formed from a variety of different materials such as plastics (polyvinylchloride, polystyrene, or polycarbonate) and may be substantially transparent or translucent. According to yet another exemplary embodiment, the closure member 104 can be formed from a metallic material (aluminum). According to embodiments of the invention, the contents can include: fresh food articles, such as fruits, vegetables, etc.; dried food articles, such as dried raisins, prunes, etc.; preserved food articles, such as cereal, coffee, etc.; and other substances, such as, for example, aspirin.

FIG. 5 illustrates another embodiment of the present invention. Typically, the oxygen absorber composition 110 (mixture of powdered iron mixed and charcoal) will be mounted on a suitable carrier such as a piece of cotton cloth, gauze, cotton ball or film. The oxygen absorber 110 and the oxygen detector circuit 112 may be adapted to be placed on an underside of the bottom wall 108 of the container 102. Additionally, it may be desirable to encase the carrier/composition 110 and the circuit 112 by means of a cover layer of gas permeable plastic film 502 to protect the carrier/composition 110 and the circuit 112 to come in contact with food articles placed in the container 102.

According to another embodiment of the present invention, it has been found that the oxygen absorbing appliance 100 as discussed earlier has a very beneficial use in withdrawing oxygen from a container containing beverages. FIG. 6 illustrates an alternate embodiment of an oxygen absorber appliance 600 for removing oxygen from beverages (e.g., wine, beer, etc.). The oxygen absorbing appliance 600 includes a container body 602 which in this case is a bottle for holding beverages. The appliance 600 further includes a closure member (e.g., cap) 604 for the container 602. According to an embodiment of the present invention, the closure member 604 is shaped to represent a wine glass. However, the closure member 604 can be of any shape so long that it is designed to mate with a mouth of the container 602.

The oxygen absorbing appliance 600 of the present invention further includes an oxygen absorber composition (similar to the one disclosed earlier) for absorbing or removing oxygen present from the beverage present in the container 602. The oxygen absorber comprises a mixture of powdered iron mixed with charcoal. Typically, the composition of iron powder and charcoal are mixed together and placed on a suitable carrier such as a piece of cotton cloth, gas permeable film, piece of cotton gauze, or any other suitable carrier. The composition of iron powder and charcoal on the carrier is placed in a region within the closure member 604, the details of which will be described with reference to FIG. 7.

The appliance further includes an oxygen detector circuit 112 as disclosed earlier with respect to FIGS. 2. The circuit 112 is retained on a region within the closure member 604. In the presence of oxygen, the circuit 112 produces an electrical current which powers a response indicator (e.g., LED, buzzer, etc.). In the absence of oxygen, or when the level of oxygen is insignificant, the circuit 112 does not produce the electrical current and thus does not power the response indicator. Thus, when the response indicator is activated, the level of oxygen in the container 602 is significant while the level of oxygen is insignificant when the response indicator is deactivated.

FIG. 7 illustrates a cross-sectional view of the closure member 604. The closure member 604 comprises a chamber 702 where the composition 110 of iron powder and charcoal resides. The bottom region 706 of the closure member 604 is shaped to receive a mouth of the container 602 and is dimensioned to fit snugly within the mouth of the container 602 with a pressure fit. The closure member further includes a gas permeable film 704. The film 704 has a plurality of fine openings or holes and is gas-permeable, but liquid-impermeable. The gas-permeable film 704 allows oxygen from the beverage container 602 to pass through such that it can be absorbed by the oxygen absorber composition 110. The closure member 604 further includes the oxygen detector circuit 112 placed on an upper region 706 within the closure member 604. The circuit 112 comprises a zinc-air battery 202, an electronic circuit 204 and a response indicator 206 (FIG. 2). The oxygen detector circuit 112 functions in a similar manner as disclosed with reference to FIGS. 2-4.

According to an embodiment of the present invention, the zinc-oxide battery 202 produces an electric current by using oxygen from the beverage in the container 602. When there is sufficient amount of oxygen present in the container 602, the battery produces a voltage which is compared to a threshold voltage by the electronic device 204. When the battery voltage exceeds the threshold voltage, the device 204 generates an output signal to activate the response indicator 206. However, if all oxygen has been absorbed or the level of oxygen has fallen to an insignificant level, the battery voltage drops below the threshold voltage because there is no chemical reaction and the device 204 does not produce the output signal. Thus, the indicator 206 remains deactivated. According to an embodiment of the present invention, the indicator 206 can be a LED that lights up in the presence of the current signal and can be placed at any region on the closure member 604 such that it is clearly visible when activated.

According to embodiments of the present invention, a food storage container and a beverage container (bottle) have been disclosed. However, the novel concept as discussed above can be applied to any other container that can be of any size and shape for the purpose of storing food/beverage articles. Additionally, the novel concept of embodying an oxygen absorber circuit can be utilized in various forms and types of storage appliances that are available. As an exemplary embodiment, a few variations of the storage containers are illustrated in FIGS. 8-9.

The previous Detailed Description is of embodiment(s) of the invention. The scope of the invention should not necessarily be limited by this Description. The scope of the invention is instead defined by the following claims and the equivalents thereof.