Oilsands research at the U of A

Post ImageI have written in the past that I think more research and development should go towards extracting more value from the oilsands. This R&D would ideally lead to better “green” technologies, and the profits we gain from the oil in the oilsands could also go toward sustainable energy. I’m sure there is lots of this R&D already going on, but a story about a new University of Alberta research centre caught my eye:

The Imperial Oil-Alberta Ingenuity Centre for Oil Sands Innovation’s mandate is to find more efficient, economically viable, and environmentally responsible ways to develop Canada’s oilsands resources, one of the largest crude oil deposits in the world. The centre will be led by scientific director Dr. Murray Gray.

The centre will invest $15 million over the next five years, will recruit more than 50 faculty, graduate students, and researchers, and will “apply the emerging tools of nanotechnology” to the oilsands. I guess that’s appropriate considering the National Institute for Nanotechnology is also located here at the U of A.

One of the main research goals of the centre is to reduce the amount of water used in the oilsands projects.

Read: ExpressNews

Waterproof Paper

Post ImageSounds like a pipe dream right? Waterproof paper? Well a nanotechnology start-up called Ecology Coatings stumbled across a spray-on coating that makes it a reality. Like some of the greatest inventions and discoveries, this one was made by accident:

Sally Ramsey, founder of Ecology Coatings, jerry-rigged an apparatus in her lab to show a chemical company representative how rapidly one of Ecology’s coatings dries when exposed to ultraviolet light. To avoid making a mess, she put a piece of paper underneath the object she wanted to spray.

When cleaning up, Ramsey exposed the paper to UV light to dry it and make it easier to throw away. On a whim, she checked to see if the coating, which was enhanced with nanoparticles, made the paper impervious to pencils or ink.

“For a minute, I was really disappointed. I could write on it all over the place,” she said. “Then something clicked.”

Pretty cool stuff! Just think of the possibilities. You could make so many different objects waterproof, where it just wasn’t before possible! Ah scientific progress…

Read: CNET News.com