Robert H. Pelton
Canada Research Chair in Interfacial Technologies
Tier 1 - 2003-04-01
RESEARCH INVOLVESUsing advances in biotechnology to produce novel papermaking chemicals that are less harmful to the environment; developing a new technique for adhesive and composite material development; establishing a better rapid purification process for drinking water.
RESEARCH RELEVANCENew environmentally friendly processes and products for Canadian pulp and paper production industry; safer drinking water.
BIOTECHNOLOGY PRODUCES BETTER PAPER PRODUCTSOver the last century, much of Canada's wealth has been generated from paper and other resource-based industries. But more stringent environmental regulations, competition from low cost pulp, aging Canadian facilities and over dependence on low-value-added products now threaten Canada's pulp and paper industry. If it is to survive and prosper in the future, our paper industry needs new technologies that can fully exploit the Canadian fibre resource and, at the same time, protect the environment.
Although extraordinary advances in computer control and polymer science have helped to transform the rather simple 1950s mechanical processing technology into modern-day science-based paper manufacturing, Dr. Robert H. Pelton believes much more can be done. Emerging developments in biotechnology are allowing him to tackle four sets of groundbreaking projects focused on exploiting the specificity of biological macromolecules to enhance papermaking.
First he will screen a broad range of commercially available proteins to understand how specific protein structures influence adhesion in wet and dry composites, and will develop novel proteins for paper chemistry applications. Next, he will elucidate the relationships between protein structure, adsorption and flocculation (retention) efficiency. The third set of projects will try to harness the ability of molecules to self-assemble in order to transport target molecules to specific domains. These projects will also generate specialty, functional pigments that can be deposited in paper in a controlled fashion. The fourth focus area will develop a new hybrid paper material that can be used to remove bacteria and viruses from drinking water.
Dr. Pelton's group is considered the world's largest, most prolific academic research group working in the area of polymers for papermaking. His laboratory provides ideal opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to learn how to design, synthesize and characterize polymers, put them into paper materials, and measure and model paper properties, thus providing valuable tools for Canadian papermakers.