New Pilot Facility in Alberta to Produce Nanocrystalline Cellulose

July 7, 2011 (Press Release) - It’s super strong, it’s green and it’s providing new opportunities for business in Alberta (Canada). It’s called nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) and Alberta is about to become a leader in its production and study. A new Edmonton-based pilot facility will be the first in Canada to produce the quality of NCC that researchers need to fully explore all its potential applications.

The $5.5-million pilot plant, created through a collaboration of the provincial and federal governments in partnership with industry under the Western Economic Partnership Agreement (WEPA), will use wood and straw pulp, like that from flax and hemp, to create up to 100 kg per week of NCC for testing in commercial applications leading to production.

Recent discoveries reveal NCC has useful properties such as great strength, optical characteristics and very large surface area at the nanoscale. The pilot plant will allow researchers to test and validate NCC from a variety of forest and agriculture materials for use in diverse applications such as, automotive components, paints and building materials, plastics, packaging, health care products and energy extraction.

“This has the potential to be one of the technologies that, literally, changes the world,” said Greg Weadick, Minister of Alberta Advanced Education and Technology. “This project focuses our Alberta Innovates system on gaining the knowledge and experience we need to develop the greener products that the world demands.”

The project opens the door to new and diverse markets for Alberta’s forest industry in areas like composite materials and coatings, drilling fluids, pharmaceuticals and more.

“Our Government’s investment will help advance a new forestry product with the potential to diversify the industry,” said Mike Lake, Member of Parliament for Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry. “With numerous sectors in Alberta that could benefit from NCC applications, this initiative will help increase our competitiveness and create jobs in our communities.”

“Translating western Canada’s world-class research into marketable applications is a key goal of our Government,” said the Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification. “Projects like this help to grow our economy by establishing new markets and creating quality jobs across the west.”

“This project highlights the role Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures (AITF) plays in Alberta’s research and innovation system. AITF contributes technical expertise and world-class facilities to initiatives with commercial promise,” said Dr. Gary Albach, President and CEO, of AITF. “We’re excited to be involved and recognize the economic potential of nanocrystalline cellulose. Providing support to innovations like this, delivers on our mandate as an organization for enabling technical industries. AITF is designed to accelerate the growth of prosperous business in Alberta. That is exactly what we are doing with nanocrystalline cellulose production.”

“Alberta-Pacific is pleased to be an industrial partner in this project. NCC represents an opportunity for our mill to produce a value-added material with significant market applications right here in Alberta, as well as around the world,” said Brent Rabik, Director of Strategic Programs, Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc.

The Canada-Alberta WEPA will target priorities that address regional needs and are consistent with national and provincial economic development strategies. The Canada-Alberta WEPA has identified four priority areas of activity: Technology Commercialization, Business Productivity and Competitiveness, Trade and Investment, and Value Added Processing.

SOURCE: Western Economic Diversification Canada