Tag Archives: US Forest Service

Commercializing cellulosic nanomaterials—a report from the US Dept. of Agriculture

Earlier this year in an April 10, 2014 post, I announced a then upcoming ‘nano commercialization’ workshop focused on cellulose nanomaterials in particular. While the report from the workshop, held in May, seems to have been published in August, news of its existence seems to have surfaced only now. From a Nov. 24, 2014 news item on Nanowerk (Note: A link has been removed),

The U.S. Forest Service has released a report that details the pathway to commercializing affordable, renewable, and biodegradable cellulose nanomaterials from trees. Cellulosic nanomaterials are tiny, naturally occurring structural building blocks and hold great promise for many new and improved commercial products. Commercializing these materials also has the potential to create hundreds of thousands of American jobs while helping to restore our nation’s forests.

“This report is yet another important step toward commercializing a material that can aid in restoring our nations’ forests, provide jobs, and improve products that make the lives of Americans better every day,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “The Forest Service plans to generate greater public and market awareness of the benefits and uses for these naturally-occurring nanomaterials.”

The report, titled “Cellulose Nanomaterials – A Path towards Commercialization” (pdf), is a result of a workshop held earlier this year that brought together a wide range of experts from industry, academia, and government to ensure that commercialization efforts are driven by market and user materials needs.

A Nov. 24, 2014 US Dept. of Agriculture news release (Note: The US Forest Service is a division of the US Dept. of Agriculture), which originated the news item, provides more detail about the reasons for holding the workshop (Note: A link has been removed),

Cellulose nanomaterials have the potential to add value to an array of new and improved products across a range of industries, including electronics, construction, food, energy, health care, automotive, aerospace, and defense, according to Ted Wegner, assistant director at the U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wis.

“These environmentally friendly materials are extremely attractive because they have a unique combination of high strength, high stiffness, and light weight at what looks to be affordable prices,” Wegner explained. “Creating market pull for cellulose nanomaterials is critical to its commercialization.

The success of this commercialization effort is important to the U.S. Forest Service for another key reason: creating forests that are more resilient to disturbances through restorative actions. Removing excess biomass from overgrown forests and making it into higher value products like nanocellulose, is a win for the environment and for the economy.

“Finding high-value, high-volume uses for low-value materials is the key to successful forest restoration,” said Michael T. Rains, Director of the Northern Research Station and Forest Products Laboratory. “With about 400 million acres of America’s forests in need of some type of restorative action, finding markets for wood-based nanocellulose could have a huge impact on the economic viability of that work.”

The U.S. Forest Service, in collaboration with the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative, organized the workshop. Participants included over 130 stakeholders from large volume industrial users, specialty users, Federal Government agencies, academia, non-government organizations, cellulose nanomaterials manufactures and industry consultants. The workshop generated market-driven input in three areas: Opportunities for Commercialization, Barriers to Commercialization, and Research and Development Roles and Priorities. Issues identified by participants included the need for more data on materials properties, performance, and environmental, health, and safety implications and the need for a more aggressive U.S. response to opportunities for advancing and developing cellulose nanomaterial.

“The workshop was a great opportunity to get research ideas directly from the people who want to use the material,” says World Nieh, the U.S. Forest Service’s national program lead for forest products. “Getting the market perspective and finding out what barriers they have encountered is invaluable guidance for moving research in a direction that will bring cellulose nanomaterials into the marketplace for commercial use.”

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, part U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.

The report titled, “Cellulose Nanomaterials – A Path towards Commercialization,” notes the situation from the US perspective (from p. 5 of the PDF report),

Despite great market potential, commercialization of cellulose nanomaterials in the United States is moving slowly. In contrast, foreign research, development, and deployment (RD&D) of cellulose nanomaterials has received significant governmental support through investments and coordination. [emphasis mine] U.S. RD&D activities have received much less government support and instead have relied on public-private partnerships and private sector investment. Without additional action to increase government investments and coordination, the United States could miss the window of opportunity for global leadership and end up being an “also ran” that has to import cellulose nanomaterials and products made by incorporating cellulose nanomaterials. If this happens, significant economic and social benefits would be lost. Accelerated commercialization for both the production and application of cellulose nanomaterials in a wide array of products is a critical national challenge.

I know the Canadian government has invested heavily in cellulose nanomaterials particularly in Québec (CelluForce, a DomTar and FPInnovations production facility for CNC [cellulose nanocrystals] also known as NCC [nanocrystalline cellulose]). There’s also some investment in Alberta (an unnamed CNC production facility) and Saskatchewan (Blue Goose Biorefineries). As for other countries and constituencies which come to mind and have reported on cellulose nanomaterial research, there’s Brazil, the European Union, Sweden, Finland, and Israel. I do not have details about government investments in those constituencies. I believe the report’s source supporting this contention is in Appendix E,  (from p. 41 of the PDF report),

Moon, Robert, and Colleen Walker. 2012. “Research into Cellulose
Nanomaterials Spans the Globe.” Paper360 7(3): 32–34. EBSCOhost. Accessed June 17, 2014 [behind a paywall]

Here’s a description of the barriers to commercialization (from p. 6 of the PDF report),

Clarifying the problems to be solved is a precursor to identifying solutions. The workshop identified critical barriers that are slowing commercialization. These barriers included lack of collaboration among potential producers and users; coordination of efforts among government, industry, and academia; lack of characterization and standards for cellulose nanomaterials; the need for greater market pull; and the need to overcome processing technical challenges related to cellulose nanomaterials dewatering and dispersion. While significant, these barriers are not insurmountable as long as the underlying technical challenges are properly addressed. With the right focus and sufficient resources, R&D should be able to overcome these key identified barriers.

There’s a list of potential applications (p. 7 of the PDF report).

Cellulose nanomaterials have demonstrated potential applications in a wide array of industrial sectors, including electronics, construction, packaging, food, energy, health care, automotive, and defense. Cellulose nanomaterials are projected to be less expensive than many other nanomaterials and, among other characteristics, tout an impressive strength-to-weight ratio (Erickson 2012, 26). The theoretical strength-to-weight performance offered by cellulose nanomaterials are unmatched by current technology (NIST 2008,
17). Furthermore, cellulose nanomaterials have proven to have major environmental benefits because they are recyclable, biodegradable, and produced from renewable resources.

I wonder if that strength-to-weight ratio comment is an indirect reference to carbon nanotubes which are usually the ‘strength darlings’ of the nanotech community.

More detail about potential applications is given on p. 9 of the PDF report,

All forms of cellulose nanomaterials are lightweight, strong, and stiff. CNCs possess photonic and piezoelectric properties, while CNFs can provide very stable hydrogels and aerogels. In addition, cellulose nanomaterials have low materials cost potential compared to other competing materials and, in their unmodified state, have so far shown few environmental, health, and safety (EHS) concerns (Ireland, Jones, Moon, Wegner, and Nieh 2014, 6). Currently, cellulose nanomaterials have demonstrated great potential for use in many areas, including aerogels, oil drilling additives, paints, coatings, adhesives, cement, food additives, lightweight packaging materials, paper, health care products, tissue scaffolding, lightweight vehicle armor, space technology, and automotive parts. Hence, cellulose nanomaterials have the potential to positively impact numerous industries. An important attribute of cellulose nanomaterials is that they are derived from renewable and broadly available resources (i.e., plant, animal, bacterial, and algal biomass). They are biodegradable and bring recyclability to products that contain them.

This particular passage should sound a familiar note for Canadians, from p. 11 of the PDF report,

However, commercialization of cellulose nanomaterials in the United States has been moving slowly. Since 2009, the USDA Forest Service has invested around $20 million in cellulose nanomaterials R&D, a small fraction of the $680 million spent on cellulose nanomaterials R&D by governments worldwide (Erickson 2014, 26). In order to remain globally competitive, accelerated research, development, and commercialization
of cellulose nanomaterials in the United States is imperative. Otherwise, the manufacturing of cellulose nanomaterials and cellulose nanomaterial-enabled products will be established by foreign producers, and the United States will be purchasing these materials from other countries. [emphasis mine] Establishing a large-scale production of cellulose nanomaterials in the United States is critical for creating new uses from wood—which is, in turn, vital to the future of forest management and the livelihood of landowners.

Here are some of the challenges and barriers identified in the workshop (pp. 19 – 21 of the PDF report),

Need for Characterization and Standards:
In order for a new material to be adopted for use, it must be well understood and end users must have confidence that the material is the same from one batch to the next. There is a need to better characterize cellulose nanomaterials with respect to their structure, surface properties, and performance. …

Production and Processing Methods:
Commercialization is inhibited by the lack of processing and production methods and know-how for ensuring uniform, reliable, and cost-effective production of cellulose nanomaterials, especially at large volumes. This is both a scale-up and a process control issue. …

Need for More Complete EHS Information:
Limited EHS information creates a significant barrier to commercialization because any uncertainty regarding material safety and the pending regulatory environment presents risk for early movers across all industries. …

Need for Market Pull and Cost/Benefit Performance:
As noted earlier, cellulose nanomaterials have potential applications in a wide range of areas, but there is no single need that is driving their commercial development. Stakeholders suggested several reasons, including lack of awareness of the material and its properties and a need for better market understanding. Commercialization will require market pull in order to incentivize manufacturers, yet there is no perceptible demand for cellulose nanomaterials at the moment. …

Challenge of Dewatering/Drying:
One of the most significant technical challenges identified is the dewatering of cellulose nanomaterials into a dry and usable form for incorporation into other materials. The lack of an energy-efficient, cost-effective drying process inhibits commercialization of cellulose nanomaterials, particularly for non-aqueous applications. Cellulose nanomaterials in low-concentration aqueous suspensions raise resource and transportation costs, which make them less viable commercially.

Technology Readiness:
Technology readiness is a major challenge in the adoption of cellulose nanomaterials. One obstacle in developing a market for cellulose nanomaterials is the lack of information on the basic properties of different types of cellulose nanomaterials, as noted in the characterization and standards discussion. …

The rest of the report concerns Research & Development (R&D) Roles and Priorities and the Path Forward. In total, this document is 44 pp. long and includes a number of appendices. Here’s where you can read “Cellulose Nanomaterials – A Path towards Commercialization.”

US Dept. of Agriculture wants to commercialize cellulose nanomaterials

Lynn Bergeson in an April 7, 2014 posting on the Nanotechnology Now website announced an upcoming ‘nano commercialization’ workshop (Note: A link has been removed),

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) will hold a May 20-21, 2014, workshop entitled “Cellulose Nanomaterial — A Path Towards Commercialization.” See http://www.nano.gov/ncworkshop The workshop is intended to bring together high level executives from government and multiple industrial sectors to identify pathways for the commercialization of cellulose nanomaterials and facilitate communication across industry sectors to determine common challenges.

You can find out more about the Cellulose Nanomaterial — A Path Towards Commercialization workshop here where you can also register and find an agenda, (Note: Links have been removed),

The primary goal of the workshop is to identify the critical information gaps and technical barriers in the commercialization of cellulose nanomaterials with expert input from user communities. The workshop also supports the announcement last December by USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack regarding the formation of a public-private partnership between the USDA Forest Service and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities to rapidly advance the commercialization of cellulose nanomaterials. In addition, the workshop supports the goals of the NNI Sustainable Nanomanufacturing Signature Initiative/

The workshop is open to the public, after registration, on a first-come, first-served basis.

There is an invitation letter dated Feb. 7, 2014, which provides some additional detail,

The primary goals of the workshop are to identify critical information gaps and technical barriers in the commercialization of cellulose nanomaterials with expert input from user communities. We plan to use the outcome of the workshop to guide research planning in P3Nano and in the Federal Government.

The Cellulose Nanomaterial — A Path Towards Commercialization workshop agenda lists some interesting names. The names I’ve chosen from the list are the speakers from the corporate sectors, all eight of them with two being tentatively scheduled; there are 22 speakers listed in total at this time,

Tom Connelly – DuPont (Tentative)
Travis Earles, Technology Manager, Lockheed Martin
Beth Cormier, Vice President for R&D and Technology, SAPPI Paper
Ed Socci, Director of Beverage Packaging, PepsiCo Advanced Research
Mark Harmon, DuPont (tentative)
Kim Nelson, Vice President for Government Affairs, API
Jean Moreau, CEO, CelluForce
Yoram Shkedi, Melodea

For the most part the speakers will be academics or government bureaucrats and while the title is ‘cellulose nanomaterials’ the speaker list suggests the topic will be heavily weighted to CNC/NCC (cellulose nanocrystals, aka, nanocrystalline cellulose). Of course, I recognize the Canadian, Jean Moreau of CelluForce, a Canadian CNC production facility. I wonder if he will be discussing the stockpile, which was first mentioned here in my Oct. 3, 2013 posting,

I stumbled across an interesting little article on the Celluforce website about the current state of NCC (nanocrystalline cellulose aka CNC [cellulose nanocrystals]) production, Canada’s claim to fame in the nanocellulose world. From an August 2013 Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Spotlight series article,

The pilot plant, located at the Domtar pulp and paper mill in Windsor, Quebec, is a joint venture between Domtar and FPInnnovations called CelluForce. The plant, which began operations in January 2012, has since successfully demonstrated its capacity to produce NCC on a continuous basis, thus enabling a sufficient inventory of NCC to be collected for product development and testing. Operations at the pilot plant are temporarily on hold while CelluForce evaluates the potential markets for various NCC applications with its stockpiled material. [emphasis mine]

I also recognized Melodea which I mentioned here in an Oct. 31, 2013 posting titled: Israeli start-up Melodea and its nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) projects.

A couple of final notes here, NCC (nanocrystalline cellulose) is also known as cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) and I believe the second term is becoming the more popular one to use. As for the final of these two notes, I had an illuminating conversation earlier this year (2014) about CNC and its accessibility. According to my source, there’s been a decision that only large industry players will get access to CNC for commercialization purposes. I can’t verify the veracity of the statement but over the last few years I’ve had a few individual entrepreneurs contact me with hopes that i could help them access the materials. All of them of them had tried the sources I was to suggest and not one had been successful. As well, I note the speaker list includes someone from PepsiCo, someone from Dupont, and someone from Lockheed Martin, all of which could be described as large industry players. (I’m not familiar with either API or SAPPI Paper so cannot offer any opinions as to their size or importance.) Melodea’s access is government-mandated due to research grants from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program (FP7).

I’m not sure one can encourage innovation by restricting access to raw materials to large industry players or government-funded projects as one might be suspected from my back channel experience, the conversation as reported to me, and the speaker list for this workshop.

Development of US plant to produce cellulosic nanomaterials announced again or is this a new one?

There’s a new announcement from the Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) about building a commercial production plant in Wisconsin for producing cellulosic nanomaterials that greatly resembles an earlier announcement in 2012. Let’s start with the new announcement, from the Dec. 11, 2013 USDA press release (h/t AgriPulse Dec. 11, 2013 news item),

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a public-private partnership to rapidly advance the development of the first U.S. commercial facility producing cellulosic nanomaterial, a wood fiber broken down to the nanoscale. The partnership is between the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment) and the U.S. Forest Service.

“We believe in the potential of wood- based nanotechnology to strengthen rural America by creating sustainable jobs and adding timber value while also creating conservation opportunities in working forests,” said Vilsack. “This public- private partnership will develop high-tech outputs from the forest products sector, and promote the invention of renewable products that have substantial environmental benefits.”

The three-year partnership will promote cellulosic nanomaterial as a commercially viable enterprise by building on work done by the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wis. The partnership seeks to overcome technical barriers to large- scale wood-based nanotechnology processing, while filling gaps in the science and technology that are needed for commercialization. Initial funding comes from the Endowment and the Forest Service. The partnership is currently seeking additional public and private sector funding.

Together with partners, this new venture will:

  • Emphasize the potential of wood- based nanotechnology for the economy and the environment.
  • Overcome technical barriers to commercialization of wood- based nanotechnology.
  • Demonstrate commitment to creating high paying jobs in rural America through value- added manufacturing and high value products.
  • Showcase the commitment of USDA and the Forest Service to innovation.

The previous announcement which I covered in my July 27, 2012 posting has some similarities, although they were announcing the expected construction of a pilot plant for a specific forest-derived cellulosic nanomaterial,,

According to the July 25, 2012 article by Rick Barrett originally published by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel McClatchy-Tribune Information Services) on the equities.com website,

The U.S. Forest Products Laboratory, in Madison, says it’s opening a $1.7 million pilot plant that will support an emerging market for wood products derived from nanotechnology.

…The pilot plant will supply nanocrystals to companies and universities that want to make materials from them or conduct their own experiments. For now, at least, it will employ just one person.

But while the Forest Products Laboratory wants to foster the technology, it doesn’t want to compete with businesses interested in producing the materials.

“We are part of the federal government, so we cannot compete against commercial companies. So if someone comes in and starts making these materials on a commercial level, we will have to get out of it,” Rudie said. That’s why, he added, the program has bought only equipment it can use for other purposes.

At a guess I’d say plans were changed (to my knowledge there’ve been no announcements about the opening of a pilot plant) and they decided that a commercial plant in a private/public partnership would be the way to go. I notice they’re very careful to use the term cellulosic nanomaterials, which suggests they will be producing not just the crystals mentioned in the 2012 story but fibrils and more.

On the Canadian side of things,, Alberta gave its pilot cellulose nanocrystal (CNC, aka, nanocrystalline cellulose [NCC]) plant a soft launch in Sept. 2013, as per my Nov. 19, 2013 posting,  and Quebec’s CelluForce plant (a  Domtar/FPInnovations partnership [private/public]) has a stockpile of the crystals and is, to my knowledge (my Oct. 3, 2013 posting), is not producing any additional material.

 

Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and their Nano4Design workshop

A Jan. 12, 2013 news item on Nanowerk highlights some of the projects and materials presented at the Nov. 29, 2012 Nano4Design workshop held at Saint Martins College of Art and Design. But first, here’s more about the workshop before it was presented, from the workshop description on the IOM3 (Institute of Materials, Minerals, and Mining) website,

Sustainability is now a key driver in product design. Sustainability includes: reducing environmentally harmful emissions during processing, avoiding the use of toxic and scarce resources, using  sustainable materials, designing-in recyclability and re-use, and environmental remediation such as carbon capture.

Sponsored by and hosted at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, this workshop is a must-attend for all product designers looking for new sustainable technologies – a unique opportunity to hear new ideas, network with peers and meet technology providers.

This workshop is for designers, materials scientists, and engineers developing or looking for  sustainable solutions in product design. Application markets are diverse, from architecture to cars, aircraft to fashion, and electronic devices to alternative technology.

Speakers include:

• Harnessing Nanotechnology to Combat Climate Change for the Built Environment – Carole Collet, Textile Futures Research Centre, Central St Martins

• Inkjet Printing for Novel Solar Control – Brian Hughes, Solaveil

• Plastic Electronics for Tagging, Sensing and Energy – Richard Kirk, Polyphotonics

• Nanocellulose – A Sustainable Alternative – Prof Mizi Fan, Brunel University

• Novel Materials for Thermal Control – Zafer Ure, PCM Products

• Surface Regeneration for Buildings – Alessia Giardino, Textile & Surface Designer

• TSB Funding Call “New Designs for a Circular Economy” – John Whittall, Technology Strategy Board

The news item on Nanowerk provides more information about specific materials and projects discussed at Nano4Design,

Iceclay

An alternative nanostructured clay aerogel that is cost-effective and ultra- lightweight is being developed through an EU consortium. The ICECLAY project aims to enhance the competitiveness of SMEs by creating a new generation of low-cost and efficient insulation materials for the EU building construction industry.

Pros: The production of the material and its integrated composites will use water and eco-friendly or soluble/dispersible low-cost polymers and a cost-effective freeze-drying process. The ICECLAY material has a highly porous structure and reduced thickness.

Application: The thermal insulation material is designed for highly energy efficient buildings, retrofit and advanced HAVC systems.

Thin and flexible lightweight ICECLAY boards or films could also offer a cheaper alternative to high-performance insulation materials such as the supercritical-dried silica aerogel. The powderbased ICECLAY will be used as thermal insulation fillers for a broad range of building products, including concrete, drywalls, bricks, plaster and coatings.

The project will be completed in 2014. If you are interested in taking part in the ongoing group, visit the ICECLAY project website.

Nanocellulose hemp fibres

The Forest Products Laboratory branch of the US Forest Service has given a grant of US$1.7m to a pilot plant that will work on the production of cellulose nanocrystals. It is estimated that the plant will contribute US$600bln to the US economy by 2020.

Pros: This material out-toughs both carbon fibre and Kevlar while still being lightweight and is renewable and cheap to produce. Applications are far-reaching due to its optical, thermal and electronic properties, and can range from strengthening agents in paper manufacture to coating additives and barrier materials for packaging. While not a new material, investigations into wider applications are underway, such as in boards, walls, floors, coatings and retrofitting or building panels.

Professor Mizi Fan, who leads a nanocellulose research group at Brunel University, comments, ‘Its strength is comparable to aluminium and it has a strong surface area and high aspect ratio, so it can be easily combined with materials such as clay. Another benefit is that 25% of its mass is already nanostructured.’

Challenges: Moisture. The next step is to improve the material’s hydrophobic properties through surface engineering.

Polluted patterns

Textile and surface design graduate at Central Saint Martins, Alessia Giardino, has created an environmentally adaptive architectural solution that replicates nature by using living organisms to create surfaces that are ‘responsive, informative and decorative’.

Concrete Lace (pictured below [sic]) is a combination of concrete, organic materials, nanotechnology and textile techniques that can be used to regenerate urban and domestic environments. The base material is a concrete tile processed through photocatalytic cement, an innovative, sustainable technology containing TiO2.

‘The TiO2 reacts with light and so is able to break down pollution in the air, while purifying it,’ says Giardino. The TiO2 is applied using serigraphy printing, traditionally used in graphics and textiles. The parts that are protected by the TiO2 maintain a clean surface and prevent ageing and yellowing, while the uncovered surface turns into a catalyst for polluting substances and forms a pattern, making these surfaces look more appealing.’ Giardino is now seeking research and commercial partners to take the technology to market and test the technology on other substrates.

The cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) mentioned in the 2nd project description (excerpted from the news item) are also known as nancrystalline cellulose (NCC). The most fully realized of the projects (from the three excerpted from the news item) is Polluted patterns (from Alessia Giardino’s website)

Polluted patterns
Conceived as an artistic response to the problem of urban decay and working on the ethos of re-appropriation of negative aspects of the city, ‘Polluted Patterns’ emerge from the surface grime by selective cleaning technologies, creating a sort of ‘Living Wall’. Light-sensitive photo catalytic white cement or paint, have been screen printed to create ‘negative’ or ‘invisible’ motifs, that gradually become visible over time, as pollutants discolor the area of the surface not protected by these technologies. That section becomes catalyst of air bones pollutants, while the nanotechnology breaks down pollutants in the air though preserving the surface from their deposition.

Wrapped door
Pollution is defining a lace-like pattern assumed as metaphor of the poisoned air wrapping buildings, cities, everyday environment and affecting people health. Beyond is decorative aspect, is showing the increasing level of poor air quality we breath.

From Polluted Patterns slideshow on Alessia Giardino's website (http://www.alessiagiardino.com/pattern.html)

From Polluted Patterns slideshow on Alessia Giardino’s website (http://www.alessiagiardino.com/pattern.html)

Giardino’s work is being sponsored by Surface (from their home page),

Surface is a company specifically created to cater to the needs of the innovation hungry architectural and interior design community.

We call ourselves Surface because that’s what we supply.Bespoke surfaces.

At Surface, we gather together the most exciting, fresh and beautiful surface technologies and designs from across the globe into a one-stop destination website for those looking for the ultimate stand-out feature for their projects.

It seems the gamut at the November 2012 workshop ranged from work which is very much at the research stage (Iceclay) to materials which are being produced in pilot plants (CNC) to a product being readied for commercialization (Polluted patterns).

AAAS 2012 Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012 roundup: quantum computing, nanocellulose, religion & science in the classroom, and ESOF in Dublin

Strangely, I have an increased interest in quantum computing after attending a few session yesterday where I didn’t understand much of anything in detail. There was the ‘Quantum Computing: Current Status and Future Prospects” session where various speakers spoke eloquently about their discoveries and outstanding challenges. There was a plea for researcher to keep the field ‘open’ and not to focus exclusively on one line of research or one material (don’t focus solely graphene/silicon/carbon nanotubes/etc.) as the ‘holy grail’ of quantum computing. The other ‘quantum’ session, “Quantum Information Science and Technology: A Global Perspective,” featured researchers working in China, Singapore, Canada, Germany, and the US. Unfortunately, I only managed to attend part of the session. (One of the problems with conferences is the number of sessions being run simultaneously and trying to attend as much ass possible means makings all kinds of compromises. It’s a good problem to have.)

The “NanoCellulose : An Abundant, Sustainable, Versatile Biopolymer” session was partly concurrent with the Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF) press briefing so I managed to hear only two of their (nanocellulose) speakers, Ted Wegman of the US Forest Service and Nils Petersen, Director General of Canada’s National Institute of Nanotechnology (NINT). Wegman presented an overview of nanocellulose research progress in the US and its potential use in many products while Petersen focussed on the NINT research team and their projects. Petersen did mention the overall Canadian scene somewhat summarily.It was not the presentation described in the programme and it had the air of something cobbled together out of well worn material.

ETA Feb.19.12 at 9:50 am: Wegman mentioned two nanocellulose plants being readied in the US, one being in the state of Maine (100Kg/day?)  and the other in the state of Wisconsin (opening in April/May 2012 and producing 20Kg/day). (I will check those numbers.)

The ESOF briefing promised some excitement at the July meeting in Dublin. They released their programming schedule and spoke at length about the science meeting and the related cultural activities being planned. (I’ll have more about that in a later posting.) The AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) representative, Al Teich, noted that the US is having to grapple with a changing landscape regarding science and research (in other words, no longer being the ‘top dog’) and he explicitly stated that the ESOF meetings are fun. I guessed that from the previews (A tale of two cities and their science meetings: vibrant Dublin and sad sack Vancouver) but it’s nice to hear it confirmed.

One other thing, the “Beyond Evolution: Religious Questions in Science Classrooms” was one of those presentations I attended accidentally and I’m sorry I didn’t hear more. They were discussing science as process rather than doctrine and there was some discussion about the impact various religions had on scientific progress.