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Rice University to Collaborate with nanoAlberta on Oil Sands Research

Rice University President David Leebron and Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in Edmonton, Alberta outlining a research collaboration between nanoAlberta, part of Alberta Advanced Education and Technology, and Rice’s Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology. The collaboration will tackle issues surrounding the production of petrochemicals from Alberta’s oil sands.

The MOU grew out of Stelmach’s missions to Texas in 2008 and 2009, where he met with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and business leaders and visited Rice and the Smalley Institute. During these missions, the premier discussed Alberta’s commitment to technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration and the role other technologies, such as nanotechnology, can play in the greater energy equation.

Wade Adams, director of the Smalley Institute, said the interests of nanoAlberta and those of his team at Rice are aligned.

We want to help them figure out how to extract oil from their resources in a more environmentally friendly way, a more efficient way and one that will cause less damage to their own territory as well as provide oil for the needs of the human race, as they become a more important source of it.

—Wade Adams

Adams noted America is the biggest market for Canadian oil. He also said that Rice is eager to work with nanoAlberta on applications for health care, another area of common interest. Emil Peña, executive director of the university’s Energy and Environmental Systems Institute, will help coordinate Rice’s efforts.

NanoAlberta works with industry, researchers and investors to help build the province’s nanotechnology industry and apply the benefits of nano research to the energy, environmental, medical, agriculture and forestry sectors. Alberta aims to generate $20 billion in nanotechnology commerce by 2020.


Henry Gibson

The tar sands need some genetic engineering to make organisms that convert bitumens directly into (corn) ethanol. Does it make it into bio-ethanol if organisms convert bitumens into ethanol. There was once a question if vinegar made by organisms from petro-ethanol could be used for food products. Petro-ethanol is not radio-active enough, according to law, for human consumption. Organisms are quite good at oxidising petrochemicals if fed properly. ..HG..

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