In collaboration with the Cranston and MacLachlan labs, which are focused on chemistry and materials engineering of nanocellulose, Dr. Vignolini hopes to define new strategies to reproduce and enhance the optical properties observed in the natural system exploiting natural biopolymers. Together, the researchers aim to produce new bio-based nanoparticles/nanofibres with novel surface chemistry and study their self-assembly. They want to develop new water-based fabrication routes towards fully light-absorbing or reflecting (i.e. the blackest black and the whitest white) materials as well as enhanced coloured surfaces and multi-domain/multi-coloured films that mimic, for example, opals. These materials may find widespread application in decorative coatings, sensors, optoelectronics, energy production, security paper/packaging, and textiles, to name just a few.
Prof. Emily Cranston is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Forestry, and leads the Sustainable Nano Composites Lab. She completed her Ph.D. in Materials Chemistry and her thesis entitled “Polyelectrolyte Multilayers Containing Cellulose Nanocrystals” explored the use of cellulose nanocrystals for model surfaces and in novel cellulose composites.
The study of “value-added” products from cellulose took her to Stockholm, Sweden where she worked as a postdoctoral researcher in two departments at KTH Royal Institute of Technology: Surface and Corrosion Science (mastering techniques to characterize surface forces and adsorption phenomena) and Fibre and Polymer Technology (looking at fundamental and mechanical properties of nanocellulose). During her stay in Sweden she also acted as the Coordinator for one theme of Biomime, the Swedish Centre for Biomimetic Fibre Engineering; Fundamentals of Adhesion and Composite technology.
In January 2011 she took up the position of Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering at McMaster University where her research focused on surface engineering of sustainable materials based on nanocellulose and she held a Tier 2 CRC in Bio-Based Nanomaterials. In January 2019 she joined the University of British Columbia as the President’s Excellence Chair in Forest Bio-products, and as an Associate Professor in UBC’s Departments of Wood Science and Chemical and Biological Engineering. Emily is the recipient of the 2016 KINGFA Young Investigator’s Award from the American Chemical Society’s Cellulose & Renewable Materials division and was the 2018 Kavli Foundation Emerging Leader in Chemistry Lecturer, awarded by ACS and the Kavli Foundation.