Category Archives: forestry

3D printed nanocellulose for green architectural applications

It’s not happening next week but it is a promising step forward if you’re looking for nancellulose applications. From a February 7, 2024 news item on Nanowerk, Note: A link has been removed,

For the first time, a hydrogel material made of nanocellulose and algae has been tested as an alternative, greener architectural material. The study, from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and the Wallenberg Wood Science Center, shows how the abundant sustainable material can be 3D printed into a wide array of architectural components, using much less energy than conventional construction methods.

Caption: 3D printed nanocellulose upscaled for green architectural applications. Credit: Chalmers University of Technology | Emma Fry

A February 6, 2024 Chalmers University of Technology press release (also on EurekAlert but published February 7, 2024), which originated the news item,

The construction industry today consumes 50 percent of the world’s fossil resources, generates 40 percent of global waste and causes 39 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. There is a growing line of research into biomaterials and their applications, in order to transition to a greener future in line with, for example, the European Green Deal.

Nanocellulose is not a new biomaterial, and its properties as a hydrogel are known within the field of biomedicine, where it can be 3D printed into scaffolds for tissue and cell growth, due to its biocompatibility and wetness. But it has never been dried and used as an architectural material before.

“For the first time we have explored an architectural application of nanocellulose hydrogel. Specifically, we provided the so far missing knowledge on its design-related features, and showcased, with the help of our samples and prototypes, the tuneability of these features through custom digital design and robotic 3D printing,” says Malgorzata Zboinska, lead author of the study from Chalmers University of Technology.

The team used nanocellulose fibres and water, with the addition of an algae-based material called alginate. The alginate allowed the researchers to produce a 3D printable material, since the alginate added an extra flexibility to the material when it dried.

Cellulose is coined as the most abundant eco-friendly alternative to plastic, as it is one of the byproducts of the world’s largest industries. “The nanocellulose used in this study can be acquired from forestry, agriculture, paper mills and straw residues from agriculture. It is a very abundant material in that sense,” says Malgorzata Zboinska.

3D printing and nanocellulose/ A resource efficient technique

The architectural industry is today surrounded by access to digital technologies which allows for a wider range of new techniques to be used, but there is a gap in the knowledge of how these techniques can be applied. According to the European Green Deal, as of 2030, buildings in Europe must be more resource-efficient, and this can be achieved through elevated reuse and recycling of materials, such as with nanocellulose, an upcycled, byproduct from industry. At the same time as buildings are to become more circular, cutting-edge digital techniques are highlighted as important leverages for achieving these goals.

“3D printing is a very resource efficient technique. It allows us to make products without other things such as dies and casting forms, so there is less waste material. It is also very energy efficient. The robotic 3D printing system we employ does not use heat, just air pressure. This saves a lot of energy as we are only working at room temperature,” says Malgorzata Zboinska.

The energy efficient process relies on the shear thinning properties of the nanocellulose hydrogel. When you apply pressure it liquifies allowing it to be 3D printed, but when you take away the pressure it maintains its shape. This allows the researchers to work without the energy intensive processes that are commonplace in the construction industry.

Malgorzata Zboinska and her team designed many different toolpaths to be used in the robotic 3D printing process to see how the nanocellulose hydrogel would behave when it dried in different shapes and patterns. These dried shapes could then be applied as a basis to design a wide array of architectural standalone components, such as lightweight room dividers, blinds, and wall panel systems. They could also form the basis for coatings of existing building components, such as tiles to clad walls, acoustic elements for damping sound, and combined with other materials to clad skeleton walls.

The future of greener building materials

“Traditional building materials are designed to last for hundreds of years. Usually, they have predictable behaviours and homogenous properties. We have concrete, glass and all kinds of hard materials that endure and we know how they will age over time. Contrary to this, biobased materials contain organic matter, that is from the outset designed to biodegrade and cycle back into nature. We, therefore, need to acquire completely new knowledge on how we could apply them in architecture, and how we could embrace their shorter life cycle loops and heterogenous behaviour patterns, resembling more those found in nature rather than in an artificial and fully controlled environment. Design researchers and architects are now intensely searching for ways of designing products made from these materials, both for function and for aesthetics,” says Malgorzata Zboinska.

This study provides the first steps to demonstrate the upscaling potentials of ambient-dried, 3D-printed nanocellulose membrane constructs, as well as a new understanding of the relationship between the design of the material’s deposition pathways via 3D printing, and the dimensional, textural, and geometric effects in the final constructs. This knowledge is a necessary stepping stone that will allow Malgorzata Zboinska and her team to develop, through further research, applications of nanocellulose in architectural products that need to meet specific functional and aesthetic user requirements.  

“The yet not fully known properties of novel biobased materials prompt architectural researchers to establish alternative approaches to designing these new products, not only in terms of the functional qualities, but also the acceptance from the users. The aesthetics of biobased materials are an important part of this. If we are to propose these biobased materials to society and people, we need to work with the design as well. This becomes a very strong element for the acceptance of these materials. If people do not accept them, we will not reach the goals of a circular economy and sustainable built environment”.

More about the research:

The research is presented in a paper: “Robotically 3D printed architectural membranes from ambient dried cellulose nanofibril-alginate hydrogel”, published in the journal Materials and Design.

The researchers involved in the study are Malgorzata A. Zboinska, Sanna Sämfors and Paul Gatenholm. The researchers were active at Chalmers University of Technology and the Wallenberg Wood Science Center, both in Sweden, at the time of the study.

This work was supported by Adlerbertska Research Foundation and Chalmers University of Technology’s Area of Advance Materials Science. The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation is gratefully acknowledged for funding the Wallenberg Wood Science Center. The authors would also like to recognise the contribution of Karl Åhlund, who assisted in the robotic extrusion system development.

Fact box – previous research:

Printing with nanocellulose was first developed at Chalmers University of Technology within the Wallenberg Wood Science Center in 2015. This is the first time this technology is being scaled up towards applications in buildings.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Robotically 3D printed architectural membranes from ambient dried cellulose nanofibril-alginate hydrogel by Malgorzata A. Zboinska, Sanna Sämfors, Paul Gatenholm. Materials & Design Volume 236, December 2023, 112472 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.matdes.2023.112472

This paper appears to be open access.

For the curious, here’s The European Green Deal.

Mending a broken heart with hydrogels and cellulose nanocrystals (CNC)

Courtesy: University of Waterloo

This February 12, 2024 news item on ScienceDaily highlights work from the University of Waterloo,

You can mend a broken heart this valentine’s day now that researchers invented a new hydrogel that can be used to heal damaged heart tissue and improve cancer treatments.

University of Waterloo chemical engineering researcher Dr. Elisabeth Prince teamed up with researchers from the University of Toronto and Duke University to design the synthetic material made using cellulose nanocrystals [CNC], which are derived from wood pulp.

A February 12, 2024 University of Waterloo news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, fills in some details,

The material is engineered to replicate the fibrous nanostructures and properties of human tissues, thereby recreating its unique biomechanical properties.

“Cancer is a diverse disease and two patients with the same type of cancer will often respond to the same treatment in very different ways,” Prince said. “Tumour organoids are essentially a miniaturized version of an individual patient’s tumour that can be used for drug testing, which could allow researchers to develop personalized therapies for a specific patient.”

As director of the Prince Polymer Materials Lab, Prince designs synthetic biomimetic hydrogels for biomedical applications. The hydrogels have a nanofibrous architecture with large pores for nutrient and waste transport, which affect mechanical properties and cell interaction. 

Prince, a professor in Waterloo’s Department of Chemical Engineering, utilized these human-tissue mimetic hydrogels to promote the growth of small-scale tumour replicas derived from donated tumour tissue. 

She aims to test the effectiveness of cancer treatments on the mini-tumour organoids before administering the treatment to patients, potentially allowing for personalized cancer therapies. This research was conducted alongside Professor David Cescon at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center.

Prince’s research group at Waterloo is developing similar biomimetic hydrogels to be injectable for drug delivery and regenerative medical applications as Waterloo researchers continue to lead health innovation in Canada.

Her research aims to use injected filamentous hydrogel material to regrow heart tissue damaged after a heart attack. She used nanofibers as a scaffolding for the regrowth and healing of damaged heart tissue. 

“We are building on the work that I started during my PhD to design human-tissue mimetic hydrogels that can be injected into the human body to deliver therapeutics and repair the damage caused to the heart when a patient suffers a heart attack,” Prince said.

Prince’s research is unique as most gels currently used in tissue engineering or 3D cell culture don’t possess this nanofibrous architecture. Prince’s group uses nanoparticles and polymers as building blocks for materials and develops chemistry for nanostructures that accurately mimic human tissues.

The next step in Prince’s research is to use conductive nanoparticles to make electrically conductive nanofibrous gels that can be used to heal heart and skeletal muscle tissue.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Nanocolloidal hydrogel mimics the structure and nonlinear mechanical properties of biological fibrous networks by Elisabeth Prince, Sofia Morozova, Zhengkun Chen, and Eugenia Kumacheva. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) December 13, 2023 120 (51) e2220755120 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2220755120

This paper is behind a paywall.

Nanocellulose and food waste, an Australian perspective

A trio of Australian academics (Alan Labas, Benjamin Matthew Long, and Dylan Liu, all from Federation University Australia) have written a September 26, 2023 essay about nanocellulose derived from food waste for The Conversation, Note: Links have been removed,

Food waste is a global problem with approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of food wasted each year throughout the food lifecycle – from the farm to food manufacturers and households.

Across the food supply chain, Australians waste around 7.6 million tonnes of food each year. This costs our economy approximately A$36.6 billion annually.

In a recent study published in Bioresource Technology Reports, we have found a way to use food waste for making a versatile material known as nanocellulose. In particular, we used acid whey – a significant dairy production waste material that it usually difficult to dispose of.

For those who may not be familiar with nanocellulose, a lot of research was done here in Canada with a focus on using forest and agricultural waste products to produce nanocellulose. (See the CelluForce and Blue Goose Biorefineries websites for more about nanocellulose production, which in both their cases results in a specific material known as cellulose nanocrystals [CNC].) There’s more about the different kinds of nanocellulose later in this post.

The September 26, 2023 essay offers a good description of nanocellulose,

Nanocellulose is a biopolymer, which means it’s a naturally produced long chain of sugars. It has remarkable properties – bacterial nanocellulose is strong, chemically stable and biocompatible, meaning it’s not harmful to human cells. This makes it a highly marketable product with applications in packaging, wound treatments, drug delivery or food production.

Then, there’s this about the production process, from the September 26, 2023 essay, Note: A link has been removed,

The traditional approach for making nanocellulose can be expensive, uses large amounts of energy and takes a long time. Some types of nanocellulose production [emphasis mine] also use a chemical process that produces unwanted waste byproducts.

By contrast, our new approach uses just food waste and a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts (SCOBY) – something you may be familiar with as a kombucha starter. Our process is low cost, consumes little energy and produces no waste.

… Lovers of home-brewed kombucha may actually be familiar with the raw nanocellulose material – it forms as a floating off-white structure called a pellicle. Some people already use this kombucha by-product as vegan leather.) A similar pellicle formed on our acid whey mixture.

I’m not sure if the “types of nanocellulose production” the writers are referring to are different types of nanocellose materials or different types of nanocellulose extraction.

A little more about nanocellulose

The Nanocellulose Wikipedia entry highlights the different materials that can be derived from nanocellulose, Note: Links have been removed,

Nanocellulose is a term referring to nano-structured cellulose. This may be either cellulose nanocrystal (CNC or NCC [nanocellulose crystal]), cellulose nanofibers (CNF) also called nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC), or bacterial nanocellulose, which refers to nano-structured cellulose produced by bacteria.

CNF is a material composed of nanosized cellulose fibrils with a high aspect ratio (length to width ratio). Typical fibril widths are 5–20 nanometers with a wide range of lengths, typically several micrometers. It is pseudo-plastic and exhibits thixotropy, the property of certain gels or fluids that are thick (viscous) under normal conditions, but become less viscous when shaken or agitated. When the shearing forces are removed the gel regains much of its original state. The fibrils are isolated from any cellulose containing source including wood-based fibers (pulp fibers) through high-pressure, high temperature and high velocity impact homogenization, grinding or microfluidization (see manufacture below).[1][2][3]

Nanocellulose can also be obtained from native fibers by an acid hydrolysis, giving rise to highly crystalline and rigid nanoparticles which are shorter (100s to 1000 nanometers) than the cellulose nanofibrils (CNF) obtained through homogenization, microfluiodization or grinding routes. The resulting material is known as cellulose nanocrystal (CNC).[4]

Nanochitin is similar in its nanostructure to nanocellulose.

Interestingly, Canadian development efforts are not mentioned in the essay until the very end, where we are lost in a plethora of other mentions, Note 1: Links have been removed; Note 2: All emphases mine,

A lthough wood-driven nanocellulose was first produced in 1983 by Herrick[7] and Turbak,[6] its commercial production postponed till 2010, mainly due to the high production energy consumption and high production cost. Innventia AB (Sweden) established the first nanocellulose pilot production plant 2010.[109] Companies and research institutes actively producing micro and nano fibrillated cellulose include: American Process (US), Borregaard (Norway), CelluComp (UK), Chuetsu Pulp and Paper (Japan), CTP/FCBA (France), Daicel (Japan), Dai-ichi Kyogo (Japan), Empa (Switzerland), FiberLean Technologies (UK), InoFib (France), Nano Novin Polymer Co. (Iran), Nippon Paper (Japan), Norske Skog (Norway), Oji Paper (Japan), RISE (Sweden), SAPPI (Netherlands), Seiko PMC (Japan), Stora Enso (Finland), Sugino Machine (Japan), Suzano (Brazil), Tianjin Haojia Cellulose Co. Ltd (China), University of Maine (US), UPM (Finland), US Forest Products Lab (US), VTT (Finland), and Weidmann Fiber Technology (Switzerland).[110] Companies and research institutes actively producing cellulose nanocrystals include: Alberta Innovates (Canada), American Process (US), Blue Goose Biorefineries (Canada), CelluForce (Canada), FPInnovations (Canada), Hangzhou Yeuha Technology Co. (China), Melodea (Israel/Sweden), Sweetwater Energy (US), Tianjin Haojia Cellulose Co. Ltd (China), and US Forest Products Lab (US).[110] Companies and research institutes actively producing cellulose filaments include: Kruger (Canada), Performance BioFilaments (Canada), and Tianjin Haojia Cellulose Co. Ltd (China).[110] Cellucomp (Scotland) produces Curran, a root-vegetable based nanocellulose.[111]

This leaves me with a couple of questions: Is my understanding of the nanocellulose story insular or Is the Wikipedia entry a little US-centric? It’s entirely possible the answer to both questions could be yes.

Why so much interest in nanocellulose? Money

From the September 26, 2023 essay, Note: A link has been removed,

Demand for nanocellulose is growing worldwide. The global market was valued at US$0.4 billion in 2022 (A$0.6bn) and is expected to grow to US$2 billion by 2030 (A$3.1bn). Bacterial nanocellulose produced from food waste can help to satisfy this demand.

This growth is in part due to how we can use nanocellulose instead of petroleum-based and other non-renewable materials in things like packaging. Among its desirable properties, nanocellulose is also fully biodegradable.

If you have time, do read the September 26, 2023 essay in its entirety.

H/t to September 27, 2023 news item on phys.org

Photonic cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) for flexible sweat sensor

It turns out there’s also a hydrogel aspect to this story about a flexible sweat sensor. As for cellulose nanocrystals (CNC), Canada played a leading role in the development of this nanomaterial and I have a bit more about the Canadian CNC scene later in this posting following the link and citation for the research paper. On to the research,

Highly elastic hydrogels constructed by heat-induced hydrogen bond remodeling can switch between wet and dry states (Image by ZHANG Fusheng and LI Qiongya)

A May 8, 2023 news item on phys.org features this work from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics of the Chinese Academy Sciences,

Cellulose nanocrystal (CNC), an emerging bio-based material, has been widely applied in fields such as electronics, bioplastics and energy. However, the functional failure of such materials in wet or liquid environments inevitably impairs their development in biomedicine, membrane separation, environmental monitoring, and wearable devices.

Now, a research group led by Prof. Qing Guangyan from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (DICP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences [CAS] reported a sustainable, insoluble, and chiral photonic cellulose nanocrystal patch for calcium ion (Ca2+) sensing in sweat.

A May 4, 2023 Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics of the Chinese Academy Sciences press release (also on EurekAlert but published May 8, 2023), which originated the news item, provides more detail about the work,

The researchers developed a simple and efficient method to fabricate insoluble CNC-based hydrogels. They found that by utilizing intermolecular hydrogen bond reconstruction, thermal dehydration enabled the optimized CNC composite photonic film to form a stable hydrogel network in an aqueous solution. Moreover, they indicated that the hydrogel could be reversibly switched between dry and wet states, which was convenient for specific functionalization.

The introduction of functionalized molecules by adsorption swelling in a liquid environment resulted in a hydrogel with freeze resistance (–20°C), strong adhesion, good biocompatibility, and high sensitivity to Ca2+.

“This work is expected to facilitate the application of sustainable cellulose sensors to monitor other metabolites (i.e., glucose, urea, and vitamins, etc.),” said Prof. QING. “It also lays foundation for digitally controlled hydrogel systems operating in environment monitoring, membrane separation, and wearable devices.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Sustainable, Insoluble, and Photonic Cellulose Nanocrystal Patches for Calcium Ion Sensing in Sweat by Qiongya Li, Chenchen He, Cunli Wang, Yuxiao Huang, Jiaqi Yu, Chunbo Wang, Wei Li, Xin Zhang, Fusheng Zhang, Guangyan Qing. small DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/smll.202207932 First published online: 13 April 2023

This paper is behind a paywall.

FPInnovations is a Canadian research and development (R&D) not-for profit organization that was instrumental in the development of CNC. (If memory serves, they are a spinoff from the University of British Columbia.) There are two Canadian CNC production facilities (that I know of): CelluForce in Québec and Blue Goose Biorefineries in Saskatchewan. I get more information about research into applications for CNC from other parts of the world while the Canadian scene remains mostly silent.

Enabling a transparent wood battery that stores heat and regulates indoor temperature with lemons and coconuts

i’ve had transparent wood stories here before but this time it was the lemons and coconuts which captured my attention.

Peter Olsén and Céline Montanari, researchers in the Department of Biocomposites at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, say the new wood composite uses components of lemon and coconuts to both heat and cool homes. (Photo: David Callahan) Courtesy: KTH Royal Institute of Technology

From a March 30, 2023 news item on Nanowerk,

A building material that combines coconuts, lemons and modified wood could one day be enough to heat and cool your home. The three renewable sources provide the key components of a wood composite thermal battery, which was developed by researchers at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

Researchers reported the development in the scientific journal, Small (“Sustainable Thermal Energy Batteries from Fully Bio-Based Transparent Wood”). Peter Olsén, researcher in the Department of Biocomposites at KTH, says the material is capable of storing both heat and cold. If used in housing construction, the researchers say that 100 kilos of the material can save about 2.5 kWh per day in heating or cooling—given an ambient temperature of 24 °C.

KTH researcher Céline Montanari says that besides sunlight, any heat source can charge the battery. “The key is that the temperature fluctuates around the transition temperature, 24 °C, which can of course be tailored depending on the application and location,” she says.

A March 30, 2023 KTH Royal Institute of Technology press release, which originated the news item, describes the roles that lemons and coconuts play,

The process starts with removing lignin from wood, which creates open pores in the wood cells walls, and removes color. Later the wood structure is filled with a citrus-based molecule—limonene acrylate—and coconut based molecule. Limonene acrylate transforms into a bio-based polymer when heated, restoring the wood’s strength and allowing light to permeate. When this happens the coconut molecule are trapped within the material, enabling the storage and release of energy.

“The elegance is that the coconut molecules can transition from a solid-to-liquid which absorbs energy; or from liquid-to-solid which releases energy, in much the same way that water freezes and melts,” Montanari says. But in the transparent wood, that transition happens at a more comfortable 24C

“Through this transition, we can heat or cool our surroundings, whichever is needed,” Olsén says

Olsén says that potential uses include exterior and interior building material for both transparency and energy saving – in exteriors and interiors. The first application of the product would be for interior spaces to regulate temperatures around the 24C mark to cool and to heat. More study is needed to develop it for exterior use.

And it’s not just for homes or buildings. “Why not as a future material in greenhouses?” he says. “When the sun shines, the wood becomes transparent and stores more energy, while at night it becomes cloudy and releases the heat stored during the day. That would help reduce energy consumption for heating and at the same time provide improved growth.”

A close-up look at the material produced in the study. Courtesy: KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Sustainable Thermal Energy Batteries from Fully Bio-Based Transparent Wood by Céline Montanari, Hui Chen, Matilda Lidfeldt, Josefin Gunnarsson, Peter Olsén, Lars A. Berglund. Small Online Version of Record before inclusion in an issue 2301262 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/smll.202301262 First published online: 27 March 2023

This paper is open access.

The 2023 Canadian federal budget: science & technology of health, the clean economy, reconciliation, and more (1 of 2)

The Canadian federal government released its 2023 budget on Tuesday, March 28, 2023. There were no flashy science research announcements in the budget. Trudeau and his team like to trumpet science initiatives and grand plans (even if they’re reannouncing something from a previous budget) but like last year—this year—not so much.

Consequently, this posting about the annual federal budget should have been shorter than usual. What happened?

Partly, it’s the military spending (chapter 5 of the budget in part 2 of this 2023 budget post). For those who are unfamiliar with the link between military scientific research and their impact on the general population, there are a number of inventions and innovations directly due to military research, e.g., plastic surgery, television, and the internet. (You can check a November 6, 2018 essay for The Conversation by Robert Kirby, Professor of Clinical Education and Surgery at Keele University, for more about the impact of World War 1 and medical research, “World War I: the birth of plastic surgery and modern anaesthesia.”)

So, there’s a lot to be found by inference. Consequently, I found Chapter 3 to also be unexpectedly rich in science and technology efforts.

Throughout both parts of this 2023 Canadian federal budget post, you will find excerpts from individual chapters of the federal budget followed my commentary directly after. My general commentary is reserved for the end.

Sometimes, I have included an item because it piqued my interest. E.g., Canadian agriculture is dependent on Russian fertilizer!!! News to me and I imagine many others. BTW, this budget aims to wean us from this dependency.

Chapter 2: Investing in Public Health Care and Affordable Dental Care

Here goes: from https://www.budget.canada.ca/2023/report-rapport/toc-tdm-en.html,

2.1 Investing in Public Health Care

Improving Canada’s Readiness for Health Emergencies

Vaccines and other cutting-edge life-science innovations have helped us to take control of the COVID-19 pandemic. To support these efforts, the federal government has committed significant funding towards the revitalization of Canada’s biomanufacturing sector through a Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy [emphasis mine]. To date, the government has invested more than $1.8 billion in 32 vaccine, therapeutic, and biomanufacturing projects across Canada, alongside $127 million for upgrades to specialized labs at universities across the country. Canada is building a life sciences ecosystem that is attracting major investments from leading global companies, including Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Sanofi.

To build upon the progress of the past three years, the government will explore new ways to be more efficient and effective in the development and production of the vaccines, therapies, and diagnostic tools that would be required for future health emergencies. As a first step, the government will further consult Canadian and international experts on how to best organize our readiness efforts for years to come. …

Gold rush in them thar life sciences

I have covered the rush to capitalize on Canadian life sciences research (with a special emphasis on British Columbia) in various posts including (amongst others): my December 30, 2020 posting “Avo Media, Science Telephone, and a Canadian COVID-19 billionaire scientist,” and my August 23, 2021 posting “Who’s running the life science companies’ public relations campaign in British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada)?” There’s also my August 20, 2021 posting “Getting erased from the mRNA/COVID-19 story,” highlighting how brutal the competition amongst these Canadian researchers can be.

Getting back to the 2023 budget, ‘The Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy’ mentioned in this latest budget was announced in a July 28, 2021 Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada news release. You can find the strategy here and an overview of the strategy here. You may want to check out the overview as it features links to,

What We Heard Report: Results of the consultation on biomanufacturing and life sciences capacity in Canada

Ontario’s Strategy: Taking life sciences to the next level

Quebec’s Strategy: 2022–2025 Québec Life Sciences Strategy

Nova Scotia’s Strategy: BioFuture2030 Prince Edward Island’s Strategy:

The Prince Edward Island Bioscience Cluster [emphases mine]

2022 saw one government announcement concerning the strategy, from a March 3, 2022 Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada news release, Note: Links have been removed,

Protecting the health and safety of Canadians and making sure we have the domestic capacity to respond to future health crises are top priorities of the Government of Canada. With the guidance of Canada’s Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy, the government is actively supporting the growth of a strong, competitive domestic life sciences sector, with cutting-edge biomanufacturing capabilities.

Today [March 3, 2022], the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced a $92 million investment in adMare BioInnovations to drive company innovation, scale-up and training activities in Canada’s life sciences sector. This investment will help translate commercially promising health research into innovative new therapies and will see Canadian anchor companies provide the training required and drive the growth of Canada’s life science companies.

The real action took place earlier this month (March 2023) just prior to the budget. Oddly, I can’t find any mention of these initiatives in the budget document. (Confession: I have not given the 2023 budget a close reading although I have been through the whole budget once and viewed individual chapters more closely a few times.)

This March 2, 2023 (?) Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat news release kicked things off, Note 1: I found the date at the bottom of their webpage; Note 2: Links have been removed,

The Government of Canada’s main priority continues to be protecting the health and safety of Canadians. Throughout the pandemic, the quick and decisive actions taken by the government meant that Canada was able to scale up domestic biomanufacturing capacity, which had been in decline for over 40 years. Since then, the government is rebuilding a strong and competitive biomanufacturing and life sciences sector brick by brick. This includes strengthening the foundations of the life sciences ecosystem through the research and talent of Canada’s world-class postsecondary institutions and research hospitals, as well as fostering increased collaboration with innovative companies.

Today [March 2, 2023?], the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health, announced an investment of $10 million in support of the creation of five research hubs [emphasis mine]:

  • CBRF PRAIRIE Hub, led by the University of Alberta
  • Canada’s Immuno-Engineering and Biomanufacturing Hub, led by The University of British Columbia
  • Eastern Canada Pandemic Preparedness Hub, led by the Université de Montréal
  • Canadian Pandemic Preparedness Hub, led by the University of Ottawa and McMaster University
  • Canadian Hub for Health Intelligence & Innovation in Infectious Diseases, led by the University of Toronto

This investment, made through Stage 1 of the integrated Canada Biomedical Research Fund (CBRF) and Biosciences Research Infrastructure Fund (BRIF) competition, will bolster research and talent development efforts led by the institutions, working in collaboration with their partners. The hubs combine the strengths of academia, industry and the public and not-for-profit sectors to jointly improve pandemic readiness and the overall health and well-being of Canadians.

The multidisciplinary research hubs will accelerate the research and development of next-generation vaccines and therapeutics and diagnostics, while supporting training and development to expand the pipeline of skilled talent. The hubs will also accelerate the translation of promising research into commercially viable products and processes. This investment helps to strengthen the resilience of Canada’s life sciences sector by supporting leading Canadian research in innovative technologies that keep us safe and boost our economy.

Today’s [March 2, 2023?] announcement also launched Stage 2 of the CBRF-BRIF competition. This is a national competition that includes $570 million in available funding for proposals, aimed at cutting-edge research, talent development and research infrastructure projects associated with the selected research hubs. By strengthening research and talent capacity and leveraging collaborations across the entire biomanufacturing ecosystem, Canada will be better prepared to face future pandemics, in order to protect Canadian’s health and safety. 

Then, the Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s March 9, 2023 news release made this announcement, Note: Links have been removed,

Since March 2020, major achievements have been made to rebuild a vibrant domestic life sciences ecosystem to protect Canadians against future health threats. The growth of the sector is a top priority for the Government of Canada, and with over $1.8 billion committed to 33 projects to boost our domestic biomanufacturing, vaccine and therapeutics capacity, we are strengthening our resiliency for current health emergencies and our readiness for future ones.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force played a critical role in guiding and supporting the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine response. Today [March 9, 2023], recognizing the importance of science-based decisions, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health, are pleased to announce the creation of the Council of Expert Advisors (CEA). The 14 members of the CEA, who held their first official meeting earlier this week, will advise the Government of Canada on the long-term, sustainable growth of Canada’s biomanufacturing and life sciences sector, and on how to enhance our preparedness and capacity to protect the health and safety of Canadians.

The membership of the CEA comprises leaders with in-depth scientific, industrial, academic and public health expertise. The CEA co-chairs are Joanne Langley, Professor of Pediatrics and of Community Health and Epidemiology at the Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine, and Division Head of Infectious Diseases at the IWK Health Centre; and Marco Marra, Professor in Medical Genetics at the University of British Columbia (UBC), UBC Canada Research Chair in Genome Science and distinguished scientist at the BC Cancer Foundation.

The CEA’s first meeting focused on the previous steps taken under Canada’s Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy and on its path forward. The creation of the CEA is an important milestone in the strategy, as it continues to evolve and adapt to new technologies and changing conditions in the marketplace and life sciences ecosystem. The CEA will also inform on investments that enhance capacity across Canada to support end-to-end production of critical vaccines, therapeutics and essential medical countermeasures, and to ensure that Canadians can reap the full economic benefits of the innovations developed, including well-paying jobs.

As I’m from British Columbia, I’m highlighting this University of British Columbia (UBC) March 17, 2023 news release about their involvement, Note: Links have been removed,

Canada’s biotech ecosystem is poised for a major boost with the federal government announcement today that B.C. will be home to Canada’s Immuno-Engineering and Biomanufacturing Hub (CIEBH).

The B.C.-based research and innovation hub, led by UBC, brings together a coalition of provincial, national and international partners to position Canada as a global epicentre for the development and manufacturing of next-generation immune-based therapeutics.

A primary goal of CIEBH is to establish a seamless drug development pipeline that will enable Canada to respond to future pandemics and other health challenges in fewer than 100 days.

This hub will build on the strengths of B.C.’s biotech and life sciences industry, and those of our national and global partners, to make Canada a world leader in the development of lifesaving medicines,” said Dr. Deborah Buszard, interim president and vice-chancellor of UBC. “It’s about creating a healthier future for all Canadians. Together with our outstanding alliance of partners, we will ensure Canada is prepared to respond rapidly to future health challenges with homegrown solutions.”

CIEBH is one of five new research hubs announced by the federal government that will work together to improve pandemic readiness and the overall health and well-being of Canadians. Federal funding of $570 million is available over the next four years to support project proposals associated with these hubs in order to advance Canada’s Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy.

More than 50 organizations representing the private, public, not-for-profit and academic sectors have come together to form the hub, creating a rich environment that will bolster biomedical innovation in Canada. Among these partners are leading B.C. biotech companies that played a key role in Canada’s COVID-19 pandemic response and are developing cutting-edge treatments for a range of human diseases.

CIEBH, led by UBC, will further align the critical mass of biomedical research strengths concentrated at B.C. academic institutions, including the B.C. Institute of Technology, Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria, as well as the clinical expertise of B.C. research hospitals and health authorities. With linkages to key partners across Canada, including Dalhousie University, the University of Waterloo, and the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, the hub will create a national network to address gaps in Canada’s drug development pipeline.

In recent decades, B.C. has emerged as a global leader in immuno-engineering, a field that is transforming how society treats disease by harnessing and modulating the immune system.

B.C. academic institutions and prominent Canadian companies like Precision NanoSystems, Acuitas Therapeutics and AbCellera have developed significant expertise in advanced immune-based therapeutics such as lipid nanoparticle- and mRNA-based vaccines, engineered antibodies, cell therapies and treatments for antimicrobial resistant infections. UBC professor Dr. Pieter Cullis, a member of CIEBH’s core scientific team, has been widely recognized for his pioneering work developing the lipid nanoparticle delivery technology that enables mRNA therapeutics such as the highly effective COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.

As noted previously, I’m a little puzzled that the federal government didn’t mention the investment in these hubs in their budget. They usually trumpet these kinds of initiatives.

On a related track, I’m even more puzzled that the province of British Columbia does not have its own life sciences research strategy in light of that sector’s success. Certainly it seems that Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward are all eager to get a piece of the action. Still, there is a Life Sciences in British Columbia: Sector Profile dated June 2020 and an undated (likely from some time between July 2017 to January 2020 when Bruce Ralston whose name is on the document was the relevant cabinet minister) British Columbia Technology and Innovation Policy Framework.

In case you missed the link earlier, see my August 23, 2021 posting “Who’s running the life science companies’ public relations campaign in British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada)?” which includes additional information about the BC life sciences sector, federal and provincial funding, the City of Vancouver’s involvement, and other related matters.

Chapter 3: A Made-In-Canada Plan: Affordable Energy, Good Jobs, and a Growing Clean Economy

The most science-focused information is in Chapter 3, from https://www.budget.canada.ca/2023/report-rapport/toc-tdm-en.html,

3.2 A Growing, Clean Economy

More than US$100 trillion in private capital is projected to be spent between now and 2050 to build the global clean economy.

Canada is currently competing with the United States, the European Union, and countries around the world for our share of this investment. To secure our share of this global investment, we must capitalize on Canada’s competitive advantages, including our skilled and diverse workforce, and our abundance of critical resources that the world needs.

The federal government has taken significant action over the past seven years to support Canada’s net-zero economic future. To build on this progress and support the growth of Canada’s clean economy, Budget 2023 proposes a range of measures that will encourage businesses to invest in Canada and create good-paying jobs for Canadian workers.

This made-in-Canada plan follows the federal tiered structure to incent the development of Canada’s clean economy and provide additional support for projects that need it. This plan includes:

  • Clear and predictable investment tax credits to provide foundational support for clean technology manufacturing, clean hydrogen, zero-emission technologies, and carbon capture and storage;
  • The deployment of financial instruments through the Canada Growth Fund, such as contracts for difference, to absorb certain risks and encourage private sector investment in low-carbon projects, technologies, businesses, and supply chains; and,
  • Targeted clean technology and sector supports delivered by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada to support battery manufacturing and further advance the development, application, and manufacturing of clean technologies.

Canada’s Potential in Critical Minerals

As a global leader in mining, Canada is in a prime position to provide a stable resource base for critical minerals [emphasis mine] that are central to major global industries such as clean technology, auto manufacturing, health care, aerospace, and the digital economy. For nickel and copper alone, the known reserves in Canada are more than 10 million tonnes, with many other potential sources at the exploration stage.

The Buy North American provisions for critical minerals and electric vehicles in the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act will create opportunities for Canada. In particular, U.S. acceleration of clean technology manufacturing will require robust supply chains of critical minerals that Canada has in abundance. However, to fully unleash Canada’s potential in critical minerals, we need to ensure a framework is in place to accelerate private investment.

Budget 2022 committed $3.8 billion for Canada’s Critical Minerals Strategy to provide foundational support to Canada’s mining sector to take advantage of these new opportunities. The Strategy was published in December 2022.

On March 24, 2023, the government launched the Critical Minerals Infrastructure Fund [emphasis mine; I cannot find a government announcement/news release for this fund]—a new fund announced in Budget 2022 that will allocate $1.5 billion towards energy and transportation projects needed to unlock priority mineral deposits. The new fund will complement other clean energy and transportation supports, such as the Canada Infrastructure Bank and the National Trade Corridors Fund, as well as other federal programs that invest in critical minerals projects, such as the Strategic Innovation Fund.

The new Investment Tax Credit for Clean Technology Manufacturing proposed in Budget 2023 will also provide a significant incentive to boost private investment in Canadian critical minerals projects and create new opportunities and middle class jobs in communities across the country.

An Investment Tax Credit for Clean Technology Manufacturing

Supporting Canadian companies in the manufacturing and processing of clean technologies, and in the extraction and processing of critical minerals, will create good middle class jobs for Canadians, ensure our businesses remain competitive in major global industries, and support the supply chains of our allies around the world.

While the Clean Technology Investment Tax Credit, first announced in Budget 2022, will provide support to Canadian companies adopting clean technologies, the Clean Technology Manufacturing Investment Tax Credit will provide support to Canadian companies that are manufacturing or processing clean technologies and their precursors.

  • Budget 2023 proposes a refundable tax credit equal to 30 per cent of the cost of investments in new machinery and equipment used to manufacture or process key clean technologies, and extract, process, or recycle key critical minerals, including:
    • Extraction, processing, or recycling of critical minerals essential for clean technology supply chains, specifically: lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, copper, and rare earth elements;
    • Manufacturing of renewable or nuclear energy equipment;
    • Processing or recycling of nuclear fuels and heavy water; [emphases mine]
    • Manufacturing of grid-scale electrical energy storage equipment;
    • Manufacturing of zero-emission vehicles; and,
    • Manufacturing or processing of certain upstream components and materials for the above activities, such as cathode materials and batteries used in electric vehicles.

The investment tax credit is expected to cost $4.5 billion over five years, starting in 2023-24, and an additional $6.6 billion from 2028-29 to 2034-35. The credit would apply to property that is acquired and becomes available for use on or after January 1, 2024, and would no longer be in effect after 2034, subject to a phase-out starting in 2032.

3.4 Reliable Transportation and Resilient Infrastructure

Supporting Resilient Infrastructure Through Innovation

The Smart Cities Challenge [emphasis mine] was launched in 2017 to encourage cities to adopt new and innovative approaches to improve the quality of life for their residents. The first round of the Challenge resulted in $75 million in prizes across four winning applicants: Montreal, Quebec; Guelph, Ontario; communities of Nunavut; and Bridgewater, Nova Scotia.

New and innovative solutions are required to help communities reduce the risks and impacts posed by weather-related events and disasters triggered by climate change. To help address this issue, the government will be launching a new round of the Smart Cities Challenge later this year, which will focus on using connected technologies, data, and innovative approaches to improve climate resiliency.

3.5 Investing in Tomorrow’s Technology

With the best-educated workforce on earth, world-class academic and research institutions, and robust start-up ecosystems across the country, Canada’s economy is fast becoming a global technology leader – building on its strengths in areas like artificial intelligence. Canada is already home to some of the top markets for high-tech careers in North America, including the three fastest growing markets between 2016 and 2021: Vancouver, Toronto, and Quebec City.

However, more can be done to help the Canadian economy reach its full potential. Reversing a longstanding trend of underinvestment in research and development by Canadian business [emphasis mine] is essential our long-term economic growth.

Budget 2023 proposes new measures to encourage business innovation in Canada, as well as new investments in college research and the forestry industry that will help to build a stronger and more innovative Canadian economy.

Attracting High-Tech Investment to Canada

In recent months, Canada has attracted several new digital and high-tech projects that will support our innovative economy, including:

  • Nokia: a $340 million project that will strengthen Canada’s position as a leader in 5G and digital innovation;
  • Xanadu Quantum Technologies: a $178 million project that will support Canada’s leadership in quantum computing;
  • Sanctuary Cognitive Systems Corporation: a $121 million project that will boost Canada’s leadership in the global Artificial Intelligence market; and,
  • EXFO: a $77 million project to create a 5G Centre of Excellence that aims to develop one of the world’s first Artificial Intelligence-based automated network solutions.

Review of the Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive Program

The Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax incentive program continues to be a cornerstone of Canada’s innovation strategy by supporting research and development with the goal of encouraging Canadian businesses of all sizes to invest in innovation that drives economic growth.

In Budget 2022, the federal government announced its intention to review the SR&ED program to ensure it is providing adequate support and improving the development, retention, and commercialization of intellectual property, including the consideration of adopting a patent box regime. [emphasis mine] The Department of Finance will continue to engage with stakeholders on the next steps in the coming months.

Modernizing Canada’s Research Ecosystem

Canada’s research community and world-class researchers solve some of the world’s toughest problems, and Canada’s spending on higher education research and development, as a share of GDP, has exceeded all other G7 countries. 

Since 2016, the federal government has committed more than $16 billion of additional funding to support research and science across Canada. This includes:

  • Nearly $4 billion in Budget 2018 for Canada’s research system, including $2.4 billion for the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the granting councils—the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research; [emphases mine]
  • More than $500 million in Budget 2019 in total additional support to third-party research and science organizations, in addition to the creation of the Strategic Science Fund, which will announce successful recipients later this year;
  • $1.2 billion in Budget 2021 for Pan-Canadian Genomics and Artificial Intelligence Strategies, and a National Quantum Strategy;
  • $1 billion in Budget 2021 to the granting councils and the Canada Foundation for Innovation for life sciences researchers and infrastructure; and,
  • The January 2023 announcement of Canada’s intention to become a full member in the Square Kilometre Array Observatory, which will provide Canadian astronomers with access to its ground-breaking data. The government is providing up to $269.3 million to support this collaboration.

In order to maintain Canada’s research strength—and the knowledge, innovations, and talent it fosters—our systems to support science and research must evolve. The government has been consulting with stakeholders, including through the independent Advisory Panel on the Federal Research Support System, to seek advice from research leaders on how to further strengthen Canada’s research support system.

The government is carefully considering the Advisory Panel’s advice, with more detail to follow in the coming months on further efforts to modernize the system.

Using College Research to Help Businesses Grow

Canada’s colleges, CEGEPs, and polytechnic institutes use their facilities, equipment, and expertise to solve applied research problems every day. Students at these institutions are developing the skills they need to start good careers when they leave school, and by partnering with these institutions, businesses can access the talent and the tools they need to innovate and grow.

  • To help more Canadian businesses access the expertise and research and development facilities they need, Budget 2023 proposes to provide $108.6 million over three years, starting in 2023-24, to expand the College and Community Innovation Program, administered by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

Supporting Canadian Leadership in Space

For decades, Canada’s participation in the International Space Station has helped to fuel important scientific advances, and showcased Canada’s ability to create leading-edge space technologies, such as Canadarm2. Canadian space technologies have inspired advances in other fields, such as the NeuroArm, the world’s first robot capable of operating inside an MRI, making previously impossible surgeries possible.

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $1.1 billion [emphasis mine] over 14 years, starting in 2023-24, on a cash basis, to the Canadian Space Agency [emphasis mine] to continue Canada’s participation in the International Space Station until 2030.

Looking forward, humanity is returning to the moon [emphasis mine]. Canada intends to join these efforts by contributing a robotic lunar utility vehicle to perform key activities in support of human lunar exploration. Canadian participation in the NASA-led Lunar Gateway station—a space station that will orbit the moon—also presents new opportunities for innovative advances in science and technology. Canada is providing Canadarm3 to the Lunar Gateway, and a Canadian astronaut will join Artemis II, the first crewed mission to the moon since 1972. In Budget 2023, the government is providing further support to assist these missions.

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $1.2 billion [emphasis mine] over 13 years, starting in 2024-25, to the Canadian Space Agency to develop and contribute a lunar utility vehicle to assist astronauts on the moon.
  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $150 million [emphasis mine[ over five years, starting in 2023-24, to the Canadian Space Agency for the next phase of the Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program to support the Canada’s world-class space industry and help accelerate the development of new technologies.
  • Budget 2023 also proposes to provide $76.5 million [emphasis mine] over eight years, starting in 2023-24, on a cash basis, to the Canadian Space Agency in support of Canadian science on the Lunar Gateway station.

Investing in Canada’s Forest Economy

The forestry sector plays an important role in Canada’s natural resource economy [emphasis mine], and is a source of good careers in many rural communities across Canada, including Indigenous communities. As global demand for sustainable forest products grows, continued support for Canada’s forestry sector will help it innovate, grow, and support good middle class jobs for Canadians.

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $368.4 million over three years, starting in 2023-24, with $3.1 million in remaining amortization, to Natural Resources Canada to renew and update forest sector support, including for research and development, Indigenous and international leadership, and data. Of this amount, $30.1 million would be sourced from existing departmental resources.

Establishing the Dairy Innovation and Investment Fund

The dairy sector is facing a growing surplus of solids non-fat (SNF) [emphasis mine], a by-product of dairy processing. Limited processing capacity for SNF results in lost opportunities for dairy processors and farmers.

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $333 million over ten years, starting in 2023-24, for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to support investments in research and development of new products based on SNF, market development for these products, and processing capacity for SNF-based products more broadly.

Supporting Farmers for Diversifying Away from Russian Fertilizers

Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has resulted in higher prices for nitrogen fertilizers, which has had a notable impact on Eastern Canadian farmers who rely heavily on imported fertilizer.

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $34.1 million over three years, starting in 2023-24, to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s On-Farm Climate Action Fund to support adoption of nitrogen management practices by Eastern Canadian farmers, that will help optimize the use and reduce the need for fertilizer.

Providing Interest Relief for Agricultural Producers

Farm production costs have increased in Canada and around the world, including as a result Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and global supply chain disruptions. It is important that Canada’s agricultural producers have access to the cash flow they need to cover these costs until they sell their products.

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $13 million in 2023-24 to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to increase the interest-free limit for loans under the Advance Payments Program from $250,000 to $350,000 for the 2023 program year.

Additionally, the government will consult with provincial and territorial counterparts to explore ways to extend help to small agricultural producers who demonstrate urgent financial need.

Maintaining Livestock Sector Exports with a Foot-and-Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank

Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) is a highly transmissible illness that can affect cattle, pigs, and other cloven-hoofed animals. Recent outbreaks in Asia and Africa have increased the risk of global spread, and a FMD outbreak in Canada would cut off exports for all livestock sectors, with major economic implications. However, the impact of a potential outbreak would be significantly reduced with the early vaccination of livestock. 

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $57.5 million over five years, starting in 2023-24, with $5.6 million ongoing, to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to establish a FMD vaccine bank for Canada, and to develop FMD response plans. The government will seek a cost-sharing arrangement with provinces and territories.

Canadian economic theory (the staples theory), mining, nuclear energy, quantum science, and more

Critical minerals are getting a lot of attention these days. (They were featured in the 2022 budget, see my April 19, 2022 posting, scroll down to the Mining subhead.) This year, US President Joe Biden, in his first visit to Canada as President, singled out critical minerals at the end of his 28 hour state visit (from a March 24, 2023 CBC news online article by Alexander Panetta; Note: Links have been removed),

There was a pot of gold at the end of President Joe Biden’s jaunt to Canada. It’s going to Canada’s mining sector.

The U.S. military will deliver funds this spring to critical minerals projects in both the U.S. and Canada. The goal is to accelerate the development of a critical minerals industry on this continent.

The context is the United States’ intensifying rivalry with China.

The U.S. is desperate to reduce its reliance on its adversary for materials needed to power electric vehicles, electronics and many other products, and has set aside hundreds of millions of dollars under a program called the Defence Production Act.

The Pentagon already has told Canadian companies they would be eligible to apply. It has said the cash would arrive as grants, not loans.

On Friday [March 24, 2023], before Biden left Ottawa, he promised they’ll get some.

The White House and the Prime Minister’s Office announced that companies from both countries will be eligible this spring for money from a $250 million US fund.

Which Canadian companies? The leaders didn’t say. Canadian officials have provided the U.S. with a list of at least 70 projects that could warrant U.S. funding.

“Our nations are blessed with incredible natural resources,” Biden told Canadian parliamentarians during his speech in the House of Commons.

Canada in particular has large quantities of critical minerals [emphasis mine] that are essential for our clean energy future, for the world’s clean energy future.

I don’t believe that Joe Biden has ever heard of the Canadian academic Harold Innis (neither have most Canadians) but Biden is echoing a rather well known theory, in some circles, about Canada’s economy (from the Harold Innis Wikipedia entry),

Harold Adams Innis FRSC (November 5, 1894 – November 9, 1952) was a Canadian professor of political economy at the University of Toronto and the author of seminal works on media, communication theory, and Canadian economic history. He helped develop the staples thesis, which holds that Canada’s culture, political history, and economy have been decisively influenced by the exploitation and export of a series of “staples” such as fur, fish, lumber, wheat, mined metals, and coal. The staple thesis dominated economic history in Canada from the 1930s to 1960s, and continues to be a fundamental part of the Canadian political economic tradition.[8] [all emphases mine]

The staples theory is referred to informally as “hewers of wood and drawers of water.”

Critical Minerals Infrastructure Fund

I cannot find an announcement for this fund (perhaps it’s a US government fund?) but there is a March 7, 2023 Natural Resources Canada news release, Note: A link has been removed,

Simply put, our future depends on critical minerals. The Government of Canada is committed to investing in this future, which is why the Canadian Critical Minerals Strategy — launched by the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources, in December 2022 — is backed by up to $3.8 billion in federal funding. [emphases mine] Today [March 7, 2023], Minister Wilkinson announced more details on the implementation of this Strategy. Over $344 million in funding is supporting the following five new programs and initiatives:

  • Critical Minerals Technology and Innovation Program – $144.4 million for the research, development, demonstration, commercialization and adoption of new technologies and processes that support sustainable growth in Canadian critical minerals value chains and associated innovation ecosystems. 
  • Critical Minerals Geoscience and Data Initiative – $79.2 million to enhance the quality and availability of data and digital technologies to support geoscience and mapping that will accelerate the efficient and effective development of Canadian critical minerals value chains, including by identifying critical minerals reserves and developing pathways for sustainable mineral development. 
  • Global Partnerships Program – $70 million to strengthen Canada’s global leadership role in enhancing critical minerals supply chain resiliency through international collaborations related to critical minerals. 
  • Northern Regulatory Initiative – $40 million to advance Canada’s northern and territorial critical minerals agenda by supporting regulatory dialogue, regional studies, land-use planning, impact assessments and Indigenous consultation.
  • Renewal of the Critical Minerals Centre of Excellence (CMCE) – $10.6 million so the CMCE can continue the ongoing development and implementation of the Canadian Critical Minerals Strategy.

Commentary from the mining community

Mariaan Webb wrote a March 29,2023 article about the budget and the response from the mining community for miningweekly.com, Note: Links have been removed,

The 2023 Budget, delivered by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland on Tuesday, bolsters the ability of the Canadian mining sector to deliver for the country, recognising the industry’s central role in enabling the transition to a net-zero economy, says Mining Association of Canada (MAC) president and CEO Pierre Gratton.

“Without mining, there are no electric vehicles, no clean power from wind farms, solar panels or nuclear energy, [emphasis mine] and no transmission lines,” said Gratton.

What kind of nuclear energy?

There are two kinds of nuclear energy: fission and fusion. (Fission is the one where the atom is split and requires minerals. Fusion energy is how stars are formed. Much less polluting than fission energy, at this time it is not a commercially viable option nor is it close to being so.)

As far as I’m aware, fusion energy does not require any mined materials. So, Gratton appears to be referring to fission nuclear energy when he’s talking about the mining sector and critical minerals.

I have an October 28, 2022 posting, which provides an overview of fusion energy and the various projects designed to capitalize on it.

Smart Cities in Canada

I was happy to be updated on the Smart Cities Challenge. When I last wrote about it (a March 20, 2018 posting; scroll down to the “Smart Cities, the rest of the country, and Vancouver” subhead). I notice that the successful applicants are from Montreal, Quebec; Guelph, Ontario; communities of Nunavut; and Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. It’s about time northern communities got some attention. It’s hard not to notice that central Canada (i.e., Ontario and Quebec) again dominates.

I look forward to hearing more about the new, upcoming challenge.

The quantum crew

I first made note of what appears to be a fracture in the Canadian quantum community in a May 4, 2021 posting (scroll down to the National Quantum Strategy subhead) about the 2021 budget. I made note of it again in a July 26, 2022 posting (scroll down to the Canadian quantum scene subhead).

In my excerpts from the 3.5 Investing in Tomorrow’s Technology section of the 2023 budget, Xanadu Quantum Technologies, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario is singled out with three other companies (none of which are in the quantum computing field). Oddly, D-Wave Systems (located in British Columbia), which as far as I’m aware is the star of Canada’s quantum computing sector, has yet to be singled out in any budget I’ve seen yet. (I’m estimating I’ve reviewed about 10 budgets.)

Canadians in space

Shortly after the 2023 budget was presented, Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen was revealed as one of four astronauts to go on a mission to orbit the moon. From a Canadian Broadcasting (CBC) April 3, 2023 news online article by Nicole Mortillaro (Note: A link has been removed),

Jeremy Hansen is heading to the moon.

The 47-year old Canadian astronaut was announced today as one of four astronauts — along with Christina Koch, Victor Glover and Reid Wiseman — who will be part of NASA’s [US National Aeronautics and Space Administration] Artemis II mission.

Hansen was one of four active Canadian astronauts that included Jennifer Sidey-Gibbons, Joshua Kutryk and David Saint-Jacques vying for a seat on the Orion spacecraft set to orbit the moon.

Artemis II is the second step in NASA’s mission to return astronauts to the surface of the moon. 

The astronauts won’t be landing, but rather they will orbit for 10 days in the Orion spacecraft, testing key components to prepare for Artemis III that will place humans back on the moon some time in 2025 for the first time since 1972.

Canada gets a seat on Artemis II due to its contributions to Lunar Gateway, a space station that will orbit the moon. But Canada is also building a lunar rover provided by Canadensys Aerospace.

On Monday [April 3, 2023], Hansen noted there are two reasons a Canadian is going to the moon, adding that it “makes me smile when I say that.”

The first, he said, is American leadership, and the decision to curate an international team.

“The second reason is Canada’s can-do attitude,” he said proudly.

In addition to our ‘can-do attitude,” we’re also spending some big money, i.e., the Canadian government has proposed in its 2023 budget some $2.5B to various space and lunar efforts over the next several years.

Chapter 3 odds and sods

First seen in the 2022 budget, the patent box regime makes a second appearance in the 2023 budget where apparently ‘stakeholders will be engaged’ later this year. At least, they’re not rushing into this. (For the original announcement and an explanation of a patent box regime, see my April 19, 2022 budget review; scroll down to the Review of Tax Support to R&D and Intellectual Property subhead.)

I’m happy to see the Dairy Innovation and Investment Fund. I’m particularly happy to see a focus on finding uses for solids non-fat (SNF) by providing “$333 million over ten years, starting in 2023-24, … research and development of new products based on SNF [emphasis mine], market development for these products, and processing capacity for SNF-based products more broadly.”

This investment contrasts with the approach to cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) derived from wood (i.e., the forest economy), where the Canadian government invested heavily in research and even opened a production facility under the auspices of a company, CelluForce. It was a little problematic.

By 2013, the facility had a stockpile of CNC and nowhere to sell it. That’s right, no market for CNC as there had been no product development. (See my May 8, 2012 posting where that lack is mentioned, specifically there’s a quote from Tim Harper in an excerpted Globe and Mail article. My August 17, 2016 posting notes that the stockpile was diminishing. The CelluForce website makes no mention of it now in 2023.)

It’s good to see the government emphasis on research into developing products for SNFs especially after the CelluForce stockpile and in light of US President Joe Biden’s recent enthusiasm over our critical minerals.

Chapter 4: Advancing Reconciliation and Building a Canada That Works for Everyone

Chapter 4: Advancing Reconciliation and Building a Canada That Works for Everyone offers this, from https://www.budget.canada.ca/2023/report-rapport/toc-tdm-en.html,

4.3 Clean Air and Clean Water

Progress on Biodiversity

Montreal recently hosted the Fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, which led to a new Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. During COP15, Canada announced new funding for biodiversity and conservation measures at home and abroad that will support the implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework, including $800 million to support Indigenous-led conservation within Canada through the innovative Project Finance for Permanence model.

Protecting Our Freshwater

Canada is home to 20 per cent of the world’s freshwater supply. Healthy lakes and rivers are essential to Canadians, communities, and businesses across the country. Recognizing the threat to freshwater caused by climate change and pollution, the federal government is moving forward to establish a new Canada Water Agency and make major investments in a strengthened Freshwater Action Plan.

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $650 million over ten years, starting in 2023-24, to support monitoring, assessment, and restoration work in the Great Lakes, Lake Winnipeg, Lake of the Woods, St. Lawrence River, Fraser River, Saint John River, Mackenzie River, and Lake Simcoe. Budget 2023 also proposes to provide $22.6 million over three years, starting in 2023-24, to support better coordination of efforts to protect freshwater across Canada.
  • Budget 2023 also proposes to provide $85.1 million over five years, starting in 2023-24, with $0.4 million in remaining amortization and $21 million ongoing thereafter to support the creation of the Canada Water Agency [emphasis mine], which will be headquartered in Winnipeg. By the end of 2023, the government will introduce legislation that will fully establish the Canada Water Agency as a standalone entity.

Cleaner and Healthier Ports

Canada’s ports are at the heart of our supply chains, delivering goods to Canadians and allowing our businesses to reach global markets. As rising shipping levels enable and create economic growth and good jobs, the federal government is taking action to protect Canada’s coastal ecosystems and communities.

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $165.4 million over seven years, starting in 2023-24, to Transport Canada to establish a Green Shipping Corridor Program to reduce the impact of marine shipping on surrounding communities and ecosystems. The program will help spur the launch of the next generation of clean ships, invest in shore power technology, and prioritize low-emission and low-noise vessels at ports.

Water, water everywhere

I wasn’t expecting to find mention of establishing a Canada Water Agency and details are sketchy other than, It will be in Winnipeg, Manitoba and there will be government funding. Fingers crossed that this agency will do some good work (whatever that might be). Personally, I’d like to see some action with regard to droughts.

In British Columbia (BC) where I live and which most of us think of as ‘water rich’, is suffering under conditions such that our rivers and lakes are at very low levels according to an April 6, 2023 article by Glenda Luymes for the Vancouver Sun (print version, p. A4),

On the North American WaterWatch map, which codes river flows using a series of coloured dots, high flows are represented in various shades of blue while low flows are represented in red hues. On Wednesday [April 5, 2023], most of BC was speckled red, brown and orange, with the majority of the province’s rivers flowing “much below normal.”

“It does not bode well for the fish populations,” said Marvin Rosenau, a fisheries and ecosystems instructor at BCIT [British Columbia Institute of Technology]. …

Rosenau said low water last fall [2022], when much of BC was in the grip of drought, decreased salmon habitat during spawning season. …

BC has already seen small early season wildfires, including one near Merritt last weekend [April 1/2, 2023]. …

Getting back to the Canada Water Agency, there’s this March 29, 2023 CBC news online article by Bartley Kives,

The 2023 federal budget calls for a new national water agency to be based in Winnipeg, provided Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government remains in power long enough to see it established [emphasis mine] in the Manitoba capital.

The budget announced on Tuesday [March 28, 2023] calls for the creation of the Canada Water Agency, a new federal entity with a headquarters in Winnipeg.

While the federal government is still determining precisely what the new agency will do, one Winnipeg-based environmental organization expects it to become a one-stop shop for water science, water quality assessment and water management [emphasis mine].

“This is something that we don’t actually have in this country at the moment,” said Matt McCandless, a vice-president for the non-profit International Institute for Sustainable Development.

Right now, municipalities, provinces and Indigenous authorities take different approaches to managing water quality, water science, flooding and droughts, said McCandless, adding a national water agency could provide more co-ordination.

For now, it’s unknown how many employees will be based at the Canada Water Agency’s Winnipeg headquarters. According to the budget, legislation to create the agency won’t be introduced until later this year [emphasis mine].

That means the Winnipeg headquarters likely won’t materialize before 2024, one year before the Trudeau minority government faces re-election, assuming it doesn’t lose the confidence of the House of Commons beforehand [emphasis mine].

Nonetheless, several Canadian cities and provinces were vying for the Canada Water Agency’s headquarters, including Manitoba.

The budget also calls for $65 million worth of annual spending on lake science and restoration, with an unstated fraction of that cash devoted to Lake Winnipeg.

McCandless calls the spending on water science an improvement over previous budgets.

Kives seems a tad jaundiced but you get that way (confession: I have too) when covering government spending promises.

Part 2 (military spending and general comments) will be posted sometime during the week of April 24-28, 2023.

A new recipe for lignin nanoparticles

A flexible film that does not absorb a drop of water. Photo: Aalto University / Sahar Babaeipour

A November 8, 2022 news item on phys.org announces a new material made of nanocellulose (Note: Links have been removed),

The Bioproduct Chemistry team at Aalto University [Finland] have designed a sustainable method to produce strong and flexible cellulosic films that incredibly maintain their strength even when wet.

The material is made through an innovative combination of wood-based and biodegradable polymers without any chemical modification, harnessing the maximum benefit of each component. For the co-authors in this study, sustainability is a significant motivator in understanding the chemistry of how these materials could work together and developing materials of tomorrow with the functionality we expect today.

A November 7, 2022 Aalto University press release, which originated the news item, explains the interest in cellulose and provides more detail about the research,

Cellulosic materials, which come from the cell walls of plants, have emerged as attractive, sustainable replacements for traditional plastics. However, the moisture sensitivity of cellulose and its incompatibility with many soft hydrophobic polymers are challenges to their widespread application.

From a materials design perspective, gaining the benefit of both hydrophilic cellulose and hydrophobic polymers at the same time without any chemical treatment of raw materials is mystifying. But what if we could engineer their interface with a third component, having favorable interactions with both cellulose and soft polymers such as polycaprolactone (PCL)? To achieve this goal, the team demonstrated that lignin nanoparticles with their well-defined morphology and active surface sites can interact with both cellulose, in this case cellulose nanofibrils, and PCL and act as a compatibilizer between hydrophilic cellulose and hydrophobic PCL. Although it looks complex, the solution is simple.

First, PCL dissolved in an organic solvent is mixed with the lignin nanoparticles in water. The lignin particles assembles at the oil water interface and stabilize the emulsion. Emulsions stabilizes with solid particles are called Pickering emulsions. This emulsion is then mixed with aqueous CNF suspension prior to film formation.  This Pickering emulsion strategy creates an even dispersion of a polymer within the cellulose network, increasing the wet strength and water resistance of the composite, meanwhile retaining all the positive characteristics of the cellulose fibers or fibrils. The outcomes are excellent:  the developed composite has a higher strength than pure CNF nanopaper or pure polymer in both dry and wet conditions, even after fully immersing it in water for a day. ‘When the film was taken out of the water, it looked exactly the same as when it was put into the water,’ says Kimiaei. The reason for this is that the hydrophobic polymer, with the aid of the lignin nanoparticles is now covering the cellulose surface protecting it from the water.

The composite revealed wet strength up to 87 MPa, the highest obtained wet strength for cellulosic composites developed without any direct covalent surface modifications or synthetic additives. Furthermore, this strategy added additional functionality, such as UV shielding and antioxidant properties to the developed composites, making them interesting for packaging applications.

The team at Aalto University in Finland, a country that arguably has the world’s leading experts in the forestry industry, is focused on making the most of these natural and industrial resources. ‘Building the future with forests requires a commitment to sustainable forest management and creating additional value beyond the typical biorefinery and pulp and paper industry,’ says co-author Erfan Kimiaei, a doctoral candidate at Aalto University, School of Chemical Engineering. ‘Understanding the interfacial chemistry of wood components can be the key to getting the most out of this valuable resource in building the sustainable future,’ professor Monika Österberg adds.

For experts in the field, this approach opens new possibilities to eliminate the need for cellulose chemical modification to impart new functionalities, promoting the sustainable use of natural resources from the forest. Furthermore, this research offers a generic foundation for combining hydrophilic cellulose with varied hydrophobic soft polymers to design multifunctional cellulose-based composites using only biodegradable polymers and lignocellulosic materials, taking a big step toward fully sustainable use of natural resources. As a follow up, the researchers are now exploring a broad framework to identify the sustainability of this early-stage technology in environmental and economic aspects by integrating techno-economic and life cycle assessments.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Lignin Nanoparticles as an Interfacial Modulator in Tough and Multi-Resistant Cellulose–Polycaprolactone Nanocomposites Based on a Pickering Emulsions Strategy by Erfan Kimiaei, Muhammad Farooq, Rafael Grande, Kristoffer Meinander, Monika Österberg. Advanced Materials Interfaces Volume 9, Issue 27 September 22, 2022 2200988 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/admi.202200988 First published online: 25 August 2022

This paper is open access.

Plant fibers (nanocellulose) for more sustainable devices

Thank you to Junichiro Shiomi and the University of Tokyo for this image,

Caption: An artist’s interpretation of the way natural cellulose fibers are combined to form the CNF [cellulose nanofiber] yarn, and a magnified section showing the nanoscopic rod-shaped filaments within the yarn bundle. Credit: ©2022 Junichiro Shiomi

The research into cellulose nanofibers (CNFs) announced in this November 4, 2022 news item on ScienceDaily comes from the University of Tokyo,

Plant-derived materials such as cellulose often exhibit thermally insulating properties. A new material made from nanoscale cellulose fibers shows the reverse, high thermal conductivity. This makes it useful in areas previously dominated by synthetic polymer materials. Materials based on cellulose have environmental benefits over polymers, so research on this could lead to greener technological applications where thermal conductivity is needed.

Both cellulose nanofibers/nanofibres and cellulose nanofibrils are abbreviated to CNFs. This seems a bit confusing so I went looking for an explanation and found this September 22, 2020 posting (scroll down about 35% of the way) by professor Hatsuo Ishida, Department of Macromolecular Science and Engineering at Case Western Reserve University,

Both fiber and fibril indicate long thread-like materials and their meanings are essentially the same. However, the word,”fibril,” emphasizes a thin fiber. Therefore, the use of the word, “nano fibril,” is rather redundant. The word,”fibril” is often used for distinguishing high temperature water vapor treated cellulose fibers that are spread into very thin fibers from the whiskers prepared by the acid treatment of cellulosic materials. The word,” microfibril” is more often used than “nano fibril.” Some also use the word,”cellulose nanocrystal.” Cellulose whiskers are single crystals of materials and a typical length is less than a micrometer (one of the longest cellulose whiskers can be prepared from a sea creature called tunicate), whereas the cellulose nano fibril has much longer length. This material is much easier to scale up whereas cellulose whiskers are not as easily scale up as the nano fibrils. The word fiber has no implication and it is simply a thread like object. Thus, even if the diameter is more than hundred micrometers, as long as the length is much longer (high aspect ratio), you may call it a fiber, whereas such a thick fiber is seldom called a fibril.

Thank you professor Ishida!

A November 4, 2022 University of Tokyo press release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, explains the interest in nanocellulose and its thermal properties,

Cellulose is a key structural component of plant cell walls and is the reason why trees can grow to such heights. But the secret of its material strength actually lies in its overlapping nanoscopic fibers. In recent years, many commercial products have used cellulose nanofiber (CNF) materials because their strength and durability make them a good replacement for polymer-based materials such as plastics that can be detrimental to the environment. But now and for the first time, a research team led by Professor Junichiro Shiomi from the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Engineering has investigated previously unknown thermal properties of CNF, and their findings show these materials could be even more useful still.

“If you see plant-derived materials such as cellulose or woody biomass used in applications, it’s typically mechanical or thermally insulating properties that are being employed,” said Shiomi. “When we explored the thermal properties of a yarn made from CNF, however, we found that they show a different kind of thermal behavior, thermal conduction, and it’s very significant, around 100 times higher than that of typical woody biomass or cellulose paper.”

The reason yarn made from CNF can conduct heat so well is due to the way it’s made. Cellulose fibers in nature are very disorganized, but a process called the flow-focusing method combines cellulose fibers, orientating them in the same way, to create CNF. It’s this tightly bound and aligned bundle of rod-shaped fibers that allows heat to transfer along the bundle, whereas in a more chaotic structure it would dissipate heat more readily.

“Our main challenge was how to measure the thermal conductivity of such small physical samples and with great accuracy,” said Shiomi. “For this, we turned to a technique called T-type thermal conductivity measurement. It allowed us to measure the thermal conductivity of the rod-shaped CNF yarn samples which are only micrometers (a micrometer equaling one-thousandth of a millimeter) in diameter. But the next step for us is to perform accurate thermal tests on two-dimensional textilelike samples.”

Shiomi and his team hope that their investigation and future explorations into the use of CNF as a thermally conductive material could give engineers an alternative to some environmentally damaging polymers. In applications where heat transfer is important, such as certain electronic or computational components, it could greatly reduce the consequences of discarded electronic equipment, or e-waste, thanks to the biodegradable nature of CNF and other plant-based materials.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Enhanced High Thermal Conductivity Cellulose Filaments via Hydrodynamic Focusing by Guantong Wang, Masaki Kudo, Kazuho Daicho, Sivasankaran Harish, Bin Xu, Cheng Shao, Yaerim Lee, Yuxuan Liao, Naoto Matsushima, Takashi Kodama, Fredrik Lundell, L. Daniel Söderberg, Tsuguyuki Saito, and Junichiro Shiomi. Nano Lett. 2022, 22, 21, 8406–8412 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.nanolett.2c02057 Publication Date:October 25, 2022 Copyright © 2022 The Authors. Published by American Chemical Society

This paper is open access.

Growing electronics on trees

An April 26, 2022 news item on phys.org caught my eye with its mention of nanocellulose, trees, and electronics,

Electronics can grow on trees thanks to nanocellulose paper semiconductors

Semiconducting nanomaterials with 3D network structures have high surface areas and a lot of pores that make them excellent for applications involving adsorbing, separating, and sensing. However, simultaneously controlling the electrical properties and creating useful micro- and macro-scale structures, while achieving excellent functionality and end-use versatility, remains challenging. Now, Osaka University researchers, in collaboration with The University of Tokyo, Kyushu University, and Okayama University, have developed a nanocellulose paper semiconductor that provides both nano−micro−macro trans-scale designability of the 3D structures and wide tunability of the electrical properties. Their findings are published in ACS Nano.

Cellulose is a natural and easy to source material derived from wood. Cellulose nanofibers (nanocellulose) can be made into sheets of flexible nanocellulose paper (nanopaper) with dimensions like those of standard A4. Nanopaper does not conduct an electric current; however, heating can introduce conducting properties. Unfortunately, this exposure to heat can also disrupt the nanostructure.

The researchers have therefore devised a treatment process that allows them to heat the nanopaper without damaging the structures of the paper from the nanoscale up to the macroscale.

Caption: Schematic diagram of the preparation of the wood nanocellulose-derived nano-semiconductor with customizable electrical properties and 3D structures Credit: 2022 Koga et al. Nanocellulose paper semiconductor with a 3D network structure and its nano−micro−macro trans-scale design. ACS Nano

An April 28, 2022 Osaka University news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, provides more detail about the work

“An important property for the nanopaper semiconductor is tunability because this allows devices to be designed for specific applications,” explains study author Hirotaka Koga. “We applied an iodine treatment that was very effective for protecting the nanostructure of the nanopaper. Combining this with spatially controlled drying meant that the pyrolysis treatment did not substantially alter the designed structures and the selected temperature could be used to control the electrical properties.”

The researchers used origami (paper folding) and kirigami (paper cutting) techniques to provide playful examples of the flexibility of the nanopaper at the macrolevel. A bird and box were folded, shapes including an apple and snowflake were punched out, and more intricate structures were produced by laser cutting. This demonstrated the level of detail possible, as well as the lack of damage caused by the heat treatment.

Examples of successful applications showed nanopaper semiconductor sensors incorporated into wearable devices to detect exhaled moisture breaking through facemasks and moisture on the skin. The nanopaper semiconductor was also used as an electrode in a glucose biofuel cell and the energy generated lit a small bulb.

“The structure maintenance and tunability that we have been able to show is very encouraging for the translation of nanomaterials into practical devices,” says Associate Professor Koga. “We believe that our approach will underpin the next steps in sustainable electronics made entirely from plant materials.”

About Osaka University

Osaka University was founded in 1931 as one of the seven imperial universities of Japan and is now one of Japan’s leading comprehensive universities with a broad disciplinary spectrum. This strength is coupled with a singular drive for innovation that extends throughout the scientific process, from fundamental research to the creation of applied technology with positive economic impacts. Its commitment to innovation has been recognized in Japan and around the world, being named Japan’s most innovative university in 2015 (Reuters 2015 Top 100) and one of the most innovative institutions in the world in 2017 (Innovative Universities and the Nature Index Innovation 2017). Now, Osaka University is leveraging its role as a Designated National University Corporation selected by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to contribute to innovation for human welfare, sustainable development of society, and social transformation.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Nanocellulose Paper Semiconductor with a 3D Network Structure and Its Nano–Micro–Macro Trans-Scale Design by Hirotaka Koga, Kazuki Nagashima, Koichi Suematsu, Tsunaki Takahashi, Luting Zhu, Daiki Fukushima, Yintong Huang, Ryo Nakagawa, Jiangyang Liu, Kojiro Uetani, Masaya Nogi, Takeshi Yanagida, and Yuta Nishina. ACS Nano 2022, XXXX, XXX, XXX-XXX DOI: https://doi.org/10.1021/acsnano.1c10728 Publication Date:April 26, 2022 © 2022 The Authors. Published by American Chemical Society

The paper appears to be open access.

Say goodbye to crunchy (ice crystal-laden) in ice cream thanks to cellulose nanocrystals (CNC)

The American Chemical Society (ACS) held its 2022 Spring Meeting from March 20 – 24, 2022 and it seems like a good excuse to feature ice cream.

Adding cellulose nanocrystals prevents the growth of small ice crystals (bottom left) into the large ones (top left) that can make ice cream (right) unpleasantly crunchy. Scale bar = 100 μm. Credit: Tao Wu

A March 20, 2022 news item on phys.org introduces an ice cream presentation given at the meeting on Monday, March 20, 2022,

Ice cream can be a culinary delight, except when it gets unpleasantly crunchy because ice crystals have grown in it. Today, scientists report that a form of cellulose obtained from plants can be added to the tasty treat to stop crystals cold—and the additive works better than currently used ice growth inhibitors in the face of temperature fluctuations. The findings could be extended to the preservation of other frozen foods and perhaps donated organs and tissues

A March 20, 2022 ACS press release, which originated the news item, provides more details about crunchy ice cream and how it might be avoided,

Freshly made ice cream contains tiny ice crystals. But during storage and transport, the ice melts and regrows. During this recrystallization process, smaller crystals melt, and the water diffuses to join larger ones, causing them to grow, says Tao Wu, Ph.D., the project’s principal investigator. If the ice crystals become bigger than 50 micrometers — or roughly the diameter of a hair — the dessert takes on a grainy, icy texture that reduces consumer appeal, Wu says. “Controlling the formation and growth of ice crystals is thus the key to obtaining high-quality frozen foods.”

One fix would be to copy nature’s solution: “Some fish, insects and plants can survive in sub-zero temperatures because they produce antifreeze proteins that fight the growth of ice crystals,” Wu says. But antifreeze proteins are costlier than gold and limited in supply, so they’re not practical to add to ice cream. Polysaccharides such as guar gum or locust bean gum are used instead. “But these stabilizers are not very effective,” Wu notes. “Their performance is influenced by many factors, including storage temperature and time, and the composition and concentration of other ingredients. This means they sometimes work in one product but not in another.” In addition, their mechanism of action is uncertain. Wu wanted to clarify how they work and develop better alternatives.

Although Wu didn’t use antifreeze proteins in the study, he drew inspiration from them. These proteins are amphiphilic, meaning they have a hydrophilic surface with an affinity for water, as well as a hydrophobic surface that repels water. Wu knew that nano-sized crystals of cellulose are also amphiphilic, so he figured it was worth checking if they could stop ice crystal growth in ice cream. These cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) are extracted from the plant cell walls of agricultural and forestry byproducts, so they are inexpensive, abundant and renewable.

In a model ice cream — a 25% sucrose solution — the CNCs initially had no effect, says Min Li, a graduate student in Wu’s lab at the University of Tennessee. Though still small, ice crystals were the same size whether CNCs were present or not. But after the model ice cream was stored for a few hours, the researchers found that the CNCs completely shut down the growth of ice crystals, while the crystals continued to enlarge in the untreated model ice cream.

The team’s tests also revealed that the cellulose inhibits ice recrystallization through surface adsorption. CNCs, like antifreeze proteins, appear to stick to the surfaces of ice crystals, preventing them from drawing together and fusing. “This completely contradicted the existing belief that stabilizers inhibit ice recrystallization by increasing viscosity, which was thought to slow diffusion of water molecules,” adds Li, who will present the work at the meeting.

In their latest study, the scientists found that CNCs are more protective than current stabilizers when ice cream is exposed to fluctuating temperatures, such as when the treat is stored in the supermarket and then taken home. The team also discovered the additive can slow the melting of ice crystals, so it could be used to produce slow-melting ice cream. Other labs have shown the stabilizer is nontoxic at the levels needed in food, Wu notes, but the additive would require review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

With further research, CNCs could be used to protect the quality of other foods — such as frozen dough and fish — or perhaps to preserve cells, tissues and organs in biomedicine, Wu says. “At present, a heart must be transplanted within a few hours after being removed from a donor,” he explains. “But this time limit could be eliminated if we could inhibit the growth of ice crystals when the heart is kept at low temperatures.”

Interesting to see that this research into ice cream crystals could lead to new techniques for organ transplants.