Research Overview

The NSERC Biomaterials and Chemicals Strategic Research Network – Lignoworks will generate new knowledge to develop innovative, high value-added lignin-based materials and chemicals. These products and the technologies developed to produce them decrease our dependence on petroleum and moves us to a more renewable bioeconomy.

Biomaterials and chemicals derived from biomass are an exciting new research area that can create a high technology future for Canada. These "green" materials and chemicals may be produced from renewable resources and manufactured using environmentally friendly processes. While use of biopolymers, primarily cellulose, is now considerable, only a small fraction of these readily available raw materials is utilized commercially in higher-value material applications where petroleum-based polymers are dominant. As examples, more than half of our clothes are derived from oil; plastics have all but replaced paper containers; food dyes are made from mineral oil, and so on. However, recent socio-economic changes have made natural polymers once again worth consideration for many applications. The rising price of oil is pushing up the cost of petroleum-based synthetic polymers. Thus, alternative and renewable natural sources of materials are needed.

Research Objectives

The 16 research projects in the Network each advance one of two technology platforms:

Research Program

The NSERCBiomaterials and Chemicals Strategic Network’s projects are grouped into three discipline-based themes, each lead by a prominent scientist in the field. The themes and their respective leads are:

Theme Lead by
Polymeric products Professor Frank Ko, Faculty of Engineering, University of British Columbia
Thermochemical processing of lignin Professor Cedric Briens, Western Fluidization Group, University of Western Ontario
Catalytic processing of lignin Professor R. Tom Baker, Centre for Catalysis Research and Innovation, University of Ottawa

The Network has sixteen network investigators from ten universities. Among these are five Canada Research Chairs, an Ontario Premier’s Research Chair, a Dawson Scholar and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. A deliberate choice was made to seek out researchers new to forestry, to bring a fresh perspective and new blood to the field.