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Montreal researchers create plastic from lobster, shrimp shells

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CTVNews.ca Staff, with a report from CTV Montreal’s Angela MacKenzie


Published Saturday, December 29, 2018 9:04PM EST

Researchers at McGill University have developed a new type of durable yet biodegradable plastic from the shells of crustaceans like shrimp and lobster.

Working from a Montreal lab, they have modified a substance found in crustacean shells called chitin into a polymer called chitosan, which is usually difficult to make durable or fabricate in mass quantities.

Audrey Moores, an associate professor of chemistry, told CTV Montreal that their breakthrough involves making chitosan with a longer chain. The longer the molecular chain, the more robust the material, Moores said.

The researchers have primarily been working with shrimp shells, which they grind into a fine powder. Their hope is that this new material will one day replace petroleum-based plastics.

“Globally, every year we generate six to eight million tonnes of these kinds of crustaceous waste and we’re not using it for anything, really,” Moores said.

The discovery has many potential applications, such as straws, disposable cutlery, single-use plastic bags, food packaging and even for 3D printing, according to Moores.

“But we’re also looking into higher end applications like biomedical applications,” she added.

“It’s hard, but at the same time … if it goes in the ocean, you will have the bugs in the ocean that are able to degrade these kinds of polymers,” Moores said. “So it’s the best of both worlds, essentially.”

The team has patented their process and are now working to make the substance more malleable before attempting to get it to market.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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