The first symposium to unify two Québec strategic research groups, the CSACS (Centre for Self-Assembled Chemical Structures) and the CQMF (Centre québécois sur les matériaux fonctionnels), was held on May 3 and 4, 2016, at the École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS), in Montréal. At this symposium, researchers from strategic CSACS and CQMF groups presented their perspectives on the following research areas:
- Self-assembled supermolecular structures
- Nanoscience and nanotechnologies
- Environmental and sustainable development
- Smart materials
This article presents an outlook on the research area of “Environment and Sustainable Development”, presented by Professor Saïd Elkoun, director of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Université de Sherbrooke, and Scientific Director of the Carrefour of Innovative Technologies and Ecodesign (CITE), in Granby.
What is Sustainable Development? For Gro Harlem Brundtland, it means “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs . The three pillars of sustainable development are:
- Social development
- Environmental protection
- Economic development
The objectives and actions of sustainable development are associated with these three pillars.
On social development:
- Feed 9 billion people by 2050
- Meet various human needs and ensure equal access
- Consume better and more sparingly
On environmental protection:
- Ensure balance in biodiversity: animal and plant species, and natural habitats
- Limit the human footprint on global warming
- Use natural resources sustainably
On economic development:
- Meet demand with environmentally friendly material resources
- Reduce consumption of fossil fuels and raw materials
- Promote technological innovation and the development of renewable energy
Materials and Sustainable Development
Materials are evolving and will continue to evolve going forward.
Sustainable development must be part of this evolution.
Examples of Sustainable Development Projects
Flax is a plant widely cultivated for its textile fibers and oilseeds. Flax is grown in Canada for its seeds. In the year 2011 alone, Canada produced 368,300 metric tons of flaxseed . This country is the largest producer of linseed oil used for human consumption and industry. The fibers of the flax plants that are grown for their seeds are, however, virtually unused. The Université de Sherbrooke is working with flax producers to develop polymers composed of flax fibers in order to make use this untapped resource.
Native to North America, this plant, also known as milkweed of Syria, was one of the first North American species to be described in the Canadensium plantarum historia published by Jacques Philippe Cornut, in 1635 . The fibers produced by its fruits and stems are called “american silk.” This hollow fiber is as dense as down, warmer weight for weight, less expensive, and hydrophilic. Until recently, it was considered a weed. It grows everywhere without the need for fertilizers or pesticides.
This fiber is currently used to manufacture several types of insulating materials.
Criteria for Research Areas to be Conducted on Sustainable Development
Several research areas of the research group CQMF / CSACS could incorporate the following criteria in order for their projects to evolve, in accordance with sustainable development efforts. The research projects in the various areas of research and development of the group could:
- Minimize environmental and health impacts
- Save energy resources
- Limit greenhouse gas emission
- Save mineral resources
- Try to reduce social gaps and improve quality of life
Canada and 194 other countries have made commitments to limit global warming to between 1.5°C and 2°C, by the year 2100, at the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference. The strategic CQMF / CSACS group could demonstrate that it is possible to do research in accordance with sustainable development, by conducting eco-innovative R & D that would support the efforts of the Québec and Canadian governments, in pursuit of the goals set at the conference.