Posted tagged ‘Alberta Ingenuity’

Mining Trees for nano-enabled biomaterials

July 31, 2009

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. √


Are nano particles risky?

July 31, 2009

Aug09-JoanneShatkin2Engineering new materials at the nano or atomic scale holds great potential for improving products and industrial processes.
But what risks do these novel materials pose human health or the environment?
Joanne Shatkin addressed this issue at the recent Conference on nanotechnology and forest products hosted by TAPPI and Alberta Ingenuity.
Shatkin is an author and managing director of CLF Ventures, an affiliate of the Conservation Law Foundation in the United States.
According to Shatkin, “All the properties that make nanomaterials so exciting as new materials are really novel properties. They behave differently from existing substances that we’re used to working with. That’s what raises the concern. If they behave differently from an engineering perspective, they also may behave differently from a biological and environmental perspective. So it raises some concerns that we need to address as these materials are being developed before they go widely out into the market.”
That’s why Shatkin advocates industry and regulators take a proactive approach toward nanotechnology. “My goal,” she says, “is to try to build sustainability into these new products early on. The exciting piece about nanotechnology is that you can engineer out the properties that you don’t want. So if we are looking for those properties now… if we’re thinking about potential harm, then we can identify it early and deal with it.”
These issues are outlined in her book, entitled Nanotechnology: Health and Environmental Risks.