A Japanese delegation recently travelled to the United States and Canada in October to investigate cellulose nanomaterial technologies and their ISO status. The delegation was led by Dr. Akira Isogai (professor at the University of Tokyo Department of Biomaterials Science and co-recipient of the 2015 Marcus Wallenberg Prize for his work on TEMPO-mediated oxidation of cellulose fibres). The other delegates included two representatives from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and a deputy director from the Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).
The delegation visited the USDA Forest Service in Washington, D.C. and the Forest Products Laboratory’s nanocellulose pilot plant in Madison, Wis., followed by the National Research Council Canada laboratories in Ottawa. The delegates finished their North American tour at FPInnovations’ Pointe-Claire facilities. Jean Bouchard, Research Leader (Fibre Modification and Properties), gave an overview of FPInnovations’ Cellulosic Biomaterials program and Dr. Isogai briefly presented his work on TEMPO-oxidized cellulose nanofibrils and recent advances in nanocellulose R&D in Japan. Next on the agenda, a tour of the cellulose nanocrystal and cellulose filament laboratories and pilot plants left the visitors impressed and fascinated.
In recent years, activities toward international standardization of nanocellulose have centred around Canada and Europe. Japan wants to participate actively and systematically in this process in order to submit proposals advantageous to Japan and further the industrialization, and particularly the global development, of nanocellulose. Japan is predominantly interested in standardization of cellulose nanofibrils produced by TEMPO-mediated oxidation of paper-grade pulp followed by disintegration in water.
A collaboration with Japan is part of the strategy laid out by the Canadian Standards Development Steering Committee for Cellulosic Nanomaterials, with the two countries taking the lead in their respective fields of expertise (Canada in cellulose nanocrystals and Japan in cellulose nanofibrils).
Overall, the delegates were very impressed with FPInnovations’ activity in standardization of cellulose nanomaterials. Based on the visit of the Japanese delegation, Japan appears very favourable and even enthusiastic towards collaboration with Canada.