Mining Trees for nano-enabled biomaterials

Aug09-CarloMontemagnoIf Dr. Carlo Montemagno has his way, no one will ever look at trees the same way again.
Montemagno is the Dean of Engineering at the University of Cincinnati. He was in Edmonton for the recent conference on nanotechnology and forest products, sponsored by TAPPI and Alberta Ingenuity.
In Montemagno’s world, trees produce more than lumber and pulp. They are a cornucopia of proteins and molecules that form the basis of nano-enabled biomaterials.
He explains, “Forest products produces a large amount of biomass but all of their focus has been on cellulose. They look at using wood, fibre and pulp and that’s what they focus on. But there is a huge amount of potential resources in terms of the fundamental biological components that support the living mechanism of the tree that we should be able to harvest and use as value-added products—products that have more value intrinsically than the actual fibre that the industry is so heavily focused on.”
Montemagno says these nano-engineered biomaterials are renewable, offering a replacement for petroleum-based chemicals which will significantly reduce the carbon and energy footprint of industry. And we can expect to see some of nano-enabled products on the market within the next five years. √

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