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NSERC Presents 2 Minutes With Derek Gray
Department of Chemistry,
McGill University
In Partnership with Celluforce Inc.


Video Name

2 Minutes with Derek Gray


NSERC Communications



Release Date

September 15, 2014


We trust the wood beams holding up our homes to be strong. The source of that strength is cellulose fibres. The basic structural units of these fibres–the cellulose nanocrystals–can be chemically extracted from the fibres.

This natural, renewable, biodegradable, non-toxic nanomaterial has unique characteristics ranging from optical properties to reinforcement when added to other materials. Until recently, no one had produced more than a handful of the particles. Now, a university-private sector partnership has overcome the challenge–with a plant that is producing nanocrystalline cellulose by the ton.

Derek Gray

Cellulose is a key material in the biosphere. Every plant makes cellulose. It’s what adds the toughness and strength to wood. We were able to extract the nanocrystalline cellulose from these materials, and we were particularly interested in the material properties of cellulose. It was thanks to NSERC Discovery Grants that we were able to continue looking at the properties of this material.

Richard Berry

NSERC has supported Derek Gray and his students for many years, and they’ve become the foundation on which this organization that we call CelluForce is built upon. One of the remarkable elements about this material is its very low toxicology profile, which means that we can manufacture it without any concern in Canada, and it can be used in any application in Canada.

Derek Gray

The industry sectors include, at the moment, automotive and aerospace industries that are interested in the strength properties, how it can strengthen some of the materials that are used in cars, aircraft. The oil recovery industry is also interested in it, because some of the properties of this material change the viscosity of water. Nanocrystalline cellulose can form gels, which are of interest both in the pharmaceutical industry and in the food industry.

Richard Berry

Well, Derek has been critical. He developed the basic manufacturing process, which we’ve built upon and put the design engineering to.

Derek Gray

Our initial problem, with the development of markets for nanocrystalline cellulose, was we never could make enough in the lab to supply it to the people that were interested for any given application. It’s a very exciting time, because now, with the availability of large quantities of material, relatively large quantities of material, from CelluForce, I know that there’ll be lots of people, both in academic and industrial research, that will be wanting to exploit some of the properties of this material.

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