World research leaders gather in Finland to accelerate the development of bioactive paper

June 19, 2008

Researchers working to develop inexpensive paper that can destroy, deactivate and detect deadly pathogens, such as salmonella and SARS, will share their expertise with the world as the first ever international conference on bioactive paper kicks off next week in Espoo, Finland. More than 80 science, industry and government representatives, including a 25-member Canadian delegation, will meet in the city northwest of Helsinki for the conference, which runs from June 24-26, 2008.

The field of bioactive paper research, led by Canada's SENTINEL Bioactive Paper Network and Finland's VTT Technical Research Centre, is focused on conducting the research and working with SENTINEL's industrial partners including Ahlstrom, FUJIFILM Dimatix, Stora Enso Oyj, Sun Chemical and Cascades Canada. Projects are underway to develop paper products such as masks that detect and deactivate airborne pathogens like SARS and work is also being done to make food packaging that could signal the presence of bacteria such as E. coli or salmonella.

"Imagine the global impact when a strip of paper can immediately identify the presence of contaminates in drinking water. This innovation will save countless lives and billions of dollars in health care costs," says SENTINEL scientific director Robert Pelton, Canada Research Chair in Interfacial Technologies and professor of chemical engineering at McMaster University. "This conference will work on finding solutions to some of the technical challenges that still exist, but the paper's development is foreseeable in the not too distant future."

Some of the paper's development challenges include further enhancement of biosensors and refining printing methods to enable low-cost use of common printers. The conference's scientific presentations will explore the latest research in these and other related areas, and will include a tour of VTT's research and development facilities specializing in biotechnology and paper coating and printing.

"This conference marks an important milestone in this emerging field," says Tomi Erho, senior research scientist at VTT. "By joining the forces of a large group of highly skilled researchers, we can share knowledge and expertise, which will enable us to progress faster toward the goal of making bioactive paper a reality."

As host of the conference, government-owned VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland will be joined by representatives from Helsinki University of Technology, Åbo Akademi University, University of Lapland, the Finnish funding agency Tekes as well as from several industrial partners.

The Canadian team is comprised of SENTINEL researchers representing 11 Canadian universities, industry and government partners. SENTINEL was formed in 2005 with $7.5-million in funding over five years from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Another $3-million is being contributed by collaborating partners. McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario hosts SENTINEL's administrative centre.
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McMaster University

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