Man lives thanks to two things: nutrition and protection. Nutrition means getting, producing, washing, preparing food. Protection means building, shaping the environment. These two spheres have many points of contact: one of them is chemistry, the working and transformation of matter based on its composition.
Though we seldom think about it, one of the main applications of chemistry is cooking. Even making a cup of tea or coffee means acting through a solution; cooking a steak, triggering a Maillard reaction, is a rather complex phenomenon that determines the formation of substances like melanoidins. In short, filtering, heating, slowly or rapidly cooling, mixing, boiling, diluting are all gestures performed in chemistry labs.
Construction is chemistry. Just to cite two of the most ancient examples: mixing cement and water leads to the formation of insoluble hydrated compounds that then permit hardening. Or the chemistry involved in the firing of a brick (at a given temperature the calcium carbonate breaks down into calcium oxide and carbon dioxide; clay breaks down into silica, alumina and water; silica combines with alumina to form mullite).
If we need chemistry to feed ourselves and to build, we can realize how essential this science is to make all those structures required for production, storage and preparation of foods. Behind anything we eat or drink, every day, there is a complex chain of phases of warehousing, processing, sale, preparation. Each phase requires spaces with different characteristics, where both walls and floors have an important role to play.
This is where Gruppo Mapei comes in, the world’s leading producer of adhesives and compounds for the installation of floors and facings (2.3 billion euros in sales, over 7500 employees, 66 production plants in 31 countries on 5 continents, 18 research centers), specializing on the whole spectrum of chemistry for construction.
The group, with an extremely large, diversified range of products and specific experience gained in practice with the leading protagonists of the world of food and agriculture, has developed a series of systems and solutions for spaces where food is involved, to maintain high levels of hygiene, safety and performance.
This is why Mapei, a company not involved with food in the strict sense of the term, has made a remarkable contribution to Expo 2015 on the theme “Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life”: first of all by illustrating that it is possible to conserve, process, produce, distribute and consume food and beverages in healthy, hygienically suitable places, thanks to specially certified products.
Mapei has approached the challenge of the Expo by bringing all its extensive experience in the world of building, directly intervening and providing its products and technologies to the contractors involved in the construction of nearly all the pavilions and collateral works.
While it would be too long to provide a complete list here, we can mention that the chemistry of Mapei is found in the Seme dell’Altissimo, Padiglione Zero, the Expo Center, the theaters, Palazzo Italia, the various thematic Clusters, and practically every pavilion.
The firm is also the sponsor of Consorzio Orgoglio Brescia in the construction of the Tree of Life, the symbol of Padiglione Italia and Expo Milano 2015. So the link between food, chemistry and constructions where food passes before reaching our tables is a very strong one, as demonstrated by Mapei also in this event of planetary impact. The path taken by the chemical giant converges in a series of systems for the covering of surfaces that make it possible to effectively respond to the many and highly varied needs of companies in the sector.
First of all, systems that comply with the criteria imposed by HACCP standards for hygiene and cleanliness, with particular focus on food safety and healthy spaces, thanks to certifications. The creation of continuous surfaces through use of resins offers many advantages: absence of porosity for high levels of waterproofing; fewer joints where dust, dirt and bacteria can gather; better cleaning operations.
For spaces subject to the effects of organic acids, Mapei proposes grouts for seams and tiled surfaces, like the bacteriostatic epoxy filler Kerapoxy CQ, with BioBlock® technology, that prevents formation of mildew even in humid places; a product that has obtained the certification from the University of Modena in keeping with ISO 22196:2007 standards for use in contact with food products.
The group has also developed specific facings for the food industry, like the Mapefloor CPU range, with a polyurethane-cement base capable of responding to all the requirements of spaces, including continuity of surfaces, high resistance to frequent contact with chemical substances, easy cleaning, resistance to frequent washing and thermal shock.
These resinous compounds are certified in Italy and elsewhere for contact with foods. Mapei also offers waterproofing products for systems of water supply for human consumption. This is the case, for example, of Purtop 1000, the bi-component membrane based on pure polyurea, with excellent mechanical properties, in keeping with the requirements of D.M. 174 of 6/4/2004 for use in contact with potable water.
As we have seen, the kitchen is a small chemistry lab and it is here that most food products are concentrated. Walls and floors are subjected to the aggression of substances of different types on a daily basis, as well as the presence of high temperatures and lots of steam.
The frequent use of water, together with the aggressive substances often contained in detergents, are normal in the kitchen. So waterproofing these spaces is a primary need. We should also remember that while these are the requirements of industry and the kitchen, be it in a restaurant, a dining hall or a home, there is one part of the chain – distribution – that adds other problematic issues, including the speed of implementation of works inside its spaces.
A restaurant cannot afford to stay closed at length to update its image. A supermarket, in case of repairs of limited portions of floor space, cannot remain closed to repair cracks in ceramic tile. This is why Mapei offers a range of systems and solutions that effectively respond to different problematic issues and ensure state-of-the-art implementation on a tight schedule, reducing costs while also reducing inconvenience.
text by Alessandro Bini