The Canadian forest industry is struggling for its survival. Traditional markets of printing grades, the major part of Canadian pulp and paper production, are dwindling and are unlikely to regain profitability in the future. There is also a growing public concern for the environment, the demand for renewable raw materials is on the rise, and consumers are embracing eco-friendly products.
Wood pulp fibres are a natural product; fully biodegradable, recyclable and made of a potentially renewable resource. The challenge for the NSERC Green Fibre Network is to not only promote the "green" nature of cellulose-based products, but to develop new wood-fibre-based products that can replace fossil-fuel-based products. Examples may include paper-based or 3D moulded-fibre packaging with improved barrier properties to replace plastic and Styrofoam for containing food products. Other examples may include the development of bio-active papers for agriculture and paper-based films, as well as paper for industrial packaging, etc. Developing new profitable products will be crucial for survival and for transforming the pulp and paper industry.
The NSERC Green Fibre Network consists of 20 professors from six Canadian universities, with 24 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. They work in partnership with scientists and engineers from FPInnovations and other industrial partners.
The projects in the network are divided into three themes:
The NSERC Green Fibre Network's proposed budget is $6.3 million. In 2010, NSERC awarded $5.3 million in research funds to the network for five years. The remaining cash contributions will be from industrial partners, and equivalent cash in-kind support will consist of industrial researchers working full time or part time on network projects.
The mission of the NSERC Green Fibre Network is to create technology platforms for developing green products based on wood fibres and wood fibre networks that will replace fossil-fuel based and other non-renewable products.
To achieve its mission, a variety of critical scientific issues have to be addressed, grouped in the following technology platforms:
The research results generated by the NSERC Green Fibre Network will allow the network partners to develop a number of wood-fibre-based products:
Canadian scientists and engineers trained in the NSERC Green Fibre Network will be highly qualified in materials engineering; they will also play a key role in the renewal of the Canadian forest industry.