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NSERC Green Fibre Network (2010–2015)

Challenge

The Canadian forest industry is struggling for its survival. Traditional markets of printing grades, the major part of Canadian pulp and paper production, are dwindling and are unlikely to regain profitability in the future. There is also a growing public concern for the environment, the demand for renewable raw materials is on the rise, and consumers are embracing eco-friendly products.

Wood pulp fibres are a natural product; fully biodegradable, recyclable and made of a potentially renewable resource. The challenge for the NSERC Green Fibre Network is to not only promote the "green" nature of cellulose-based products, but to develop new wood-fibre-based products that can replace fossil-fuel-based products. Examples may include paper-based or 3D moulded-fibre packaging with improved barrier properties to replace plastic and Styrofoam for containing food products. Other examples may include the development of bio-active papers for agriculture and paper-based films, as well as paper for industrial packaging, etc. Developing new profitable products will be crucial for survival and for transforming the pulp and paper industry.

Network Structure

The NSERC Green Fibre Network consists of 20 professors from six Canadian universities, with 24 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. They work in partnership with scientists and engineers from FPInnovations and other industrial partners.

The projects in the network are divided into three themes:

  • Chemical modification of wood fibres and wood fibre networks, with theme leader Huining Xiao from the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Dr. Jack McKenzie Limerick Pulp and Paper Research and Education Centre at the University of New Brunswick;
  • Barrier properties and water resistance of wood fibre networks, with theme leader Reghan Hill from the Department of Chemical Engineering at McGill University; and
  • Novel eco-friendly, fibre-based products, with theme leader Ramin Farnood from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry at the University of Toronto.

The NSERC Green Fibre Network's proposed budget is $6.3 million. In 2010, NSERC awarded $5.3 million in research funds to the network for five years. The remaining cash contributions will be from industrial partners, and equivalent cash in-kind support will consist of industrial researchers working full time or part time on network projects.

Research Objectives

The mission of the NSERC Green Fibre Network is to create technology platforms for developing green products based on wood fibres and wood fibre networks that will replace fossil-fuel based and other non-renewable products.

To achieve its mission, a variety of critical scientific issues have to be addressed, grouped in the following technology platforms:

  1. Functionalized wood fibres, tailored for specific applications
  2. Strong networks from hydrophobic and hydrophilic fibres
  3. Water vapour transport through cellulose-based materials
  4. Formation of 3D structures from wood fibres
  5. Wood fibre–biopolymer composites

Outcomes

The research results generated by the NSERC Green Fibre Network will allow the network partners to develop a number of wood-fibre-based products:

  • flexible packaging to replace aluminum and plastics;
  • filters for large-scale water purification and re-use to replace presently used plastic filters;
  • insulating materials for building materials or packaging to replace Styrofoam or similar materials;
  • wood-fibre-based furniture;
  • wood-fibre-based textiles; and
  • wood fibre-biopolymer composites for use in automotive or other industries.

Canadian scientists and engineers trained in the NSERC Green Fibre Network will be highly qualified in materials engineering; they will also play a key role in the renewal of the Canadian forest industry.

Contact

Theo van de Ven
Scientific Director
Tel.: 514-398-6177
E-mail: theo.vandeven@mcgill.ca
Web site: This link will take you to another Web site http://www.greenfibrenetwork.ca


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