Leading research at St. Francis Xavier University (StFX) has generated a technology that could have significant environmental impact on household products. It has also caught the attention and investment of GreenCentre Canada, a national centre for commercializing early-stage green chemistry. In fact, St. Francis Xavier was the first university in Canada to complete a technology license with GreenCentre.
With support from the Atlantic Innovation Fund, collaborators Dr. Gerry Marangoni of StFX and Dr. Bruce Grindley of Dalhousie University created a high performance compound called a Gemini surfactant. Able to dissolve or emulsify insoluble substances and to coat surfaces, surfactants are found in a broad range of everyday consumer products, such as shampoos, detergents, cleaners, pharmaceuticals and paint. They are also used in industrial processes such as oil and gas drilling. This Gemini surfactant is particularly innovative because significantly smaller amounts are needed to do the same job as existing compounds.
“The fact that the Gemini surfactant is so high functioning in small doses could translate into major cost savings in the manufacturing, packaging, transportation and retail of common household products,” says Andrew Kendall, Manager of the Industry Liaison Office at StFX. “Accumulatively, that also means reduced environmental impact at every stage.”
While Kendall recognized the commercial possibilities of Dr. Marangoni’s compound, he knew that in order to truly assess its full potential, the researchers would require a partner with specialized expertise. With a focus on developing commercially viable, environmentally sound products and practices within the chemical industry, GreenCentre seemed like a perfect fit. Kendall negotiated a first-ever partnership that saw GreenCentre not only license the Gemini surfactant technology from StFX, they also licensed a series of compounds developed by Dr. Marangoni and Dr. James Nyangulu called Shale Hydration Inhibition Agents, which are designed to deal with drilling issues in the oil and gas industries.
Over the next year, GreenCentre will test these surfactants at larger scales, monitoring their performance as well as putting them into the hands of industry partners and potential customers to gain valuable feedback.
“This has been an incredibly satisfying and exciting process for everyone involved,” says Kendall. “As a member of the Springboard Atlantic network, my job is to identify and shepherd innovative research through to commercialization. To partner with a centre of excellence like GreenCentre to achieve that goal not only benefits these particular technologies but it’s also a significant accomplishment for Atlantic Canadian researchers to be the first in the country to secure a license agreement with GreenCentre. This demonstrates that StFX researchers as well as those from across the Springboard network can compete in a global market. I’m confident more license agreements will follow.”