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Dr. Robert Pelton


Department of Chemical Engineering

polymer colloids, water soluble polymers, interfacial engineering, flocculation, and latex's
Areas of Specialization:
Research Clusters:


Research involves

Using advances in biotechnology to produce novel papermaking chemicals that are less harmful to the environment; developing a new technique for adhesive and composite material development; establishing a better rapid purification process for drinking water.

Research relevance

New environmentally friendly processes and products for Canadian pulp and paper production industry; safer drinking water.

Biotechnology Produces Better Paper Products

Over the last century, much of Canada's wealth has been generated from paper and other resource-based industries. But more stringent environmental regulations, competition from low cost pulp, aging Canadian facilities and over dependence on low-value-added products now threaten Canada's pulp and paper industry. If it is to survive and prosper in the future, our paper industry needs new technologies that can fully exploit the Canadian fibre resource and, at the same time, protect the environment.

Although extraordinary advances in computer control and polymer science have helped to transform the rather simple 1950s mechanical processing technology into modern-day science-based paper manufacturing, Dr. Robert H. Pelton believes much more can be done. Emerging developments in biotechnology are allowing him to tackle four sets of groundbreaking projects focused on exploiting the specificity of biological macromolecules to enhance papermaking.

First he will screen a broad range of commercially available proteins to understand how specific protein structures influence adhesion in wet and dry composites, and will develop novel proteins for paper chemistry applications. Next, he will elucidate the relationships between protein structure, adsorption and flocculation (retention) efficiency. The third set of projects will try to harness the ability of molecules to self-assemble in order to transport target molecules to specific domains. These projects will also generate specialty, functional pigments that can be deposited in paper in a controlled fashion. The fourth focus area will develop a new hybrid paper material that can be used to remove bacteria and viruses from drinking water.

Dr. Pelton's group is considered the world's largest, most prolific academic research group working in the area of polymers for papermaking. His laboratory provides ideal opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to learn how to design, synthesize and characterize polymers, put them into paper materials, and measure and model paper properties, thus providing valuable tools for Canadian papermakers.


  • B.Sc. U. of Guelph Chemistry (1970)
  • M.Sc. U. of Guelph Chemistry (1971)
  • Ph.D. Colloid Chemistry, Bristol University (1976)


Robert Pelton is a professor of chemical engineering at McMaster University and holds the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Interfacial Technologies. Pelton is also the Scientific Director of the Sentinel Bioactive Paper NSERC Strategic Network. Working with 60+ graduate students, 36 post docs, and 100+ summer students, Pelton’s team has produced more than 280 peer reviewed publications and 6800 citations involving a wide range of topics in colloid and polymer science. Best known for his invention of polyNIPAM thermosensitive microgels and his vision of the SENTINEL Bioactive Paper initiative, Pelton as won a number awards including the Technical Association of the American Pulp and Paper Association (TAPPI) Van den Akker Award for paper physics (2013), Macromolecular Science and Engineering Award, Chemical Institute of Canada (2009), 2010 Faculty of Engineering Research Achievement Award, McMaster University, the Derek Page award for the best paper in Journal Pulp Paper Science (2005), the Jasper Mardon Memorial Prize for the best papermaking paper (2002), the Synergy Award for best collaboration with industry (1996). Pelton is a TAPPI fellow and was recently elected as a fellow the Royal Society of Canada. Pelton earned his Ph.D. in Colloid Chemistry at Bristol University 1977 working with Prof. Ronald Ottewill.


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  • Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering
  • Canada Research Chair - Interfacial Technologies
  • Founding Director of McMaster Centre for Pulp and Paper Research.
  • Associate Faculty Member of Chemistry Department
  • Winner, Jasper Mardon Memorial Prize for the best papermaking paper
  • at Tappi Paper Summit, 2002.
  • Winner, Synergy Award 1996, for best collaborations with industry (Dorset)
  • TAPPI Fellow
  • Leader, SENTINEL The Canadian Network for the development and use of Bioactive paper
  • Fellow The Royal Society of Canada
  • Winner LeSueur Memorial Award March 2012
  • Winner CIC Macromolecular Science & Engineering Award 2009
  • Winner Journal of Colloid & Interface Science Top Cited article 2010-2011
  • Member McMaster University Board of Governors
  • Member Review Committee of the Pulp and Paper Fundamental Research Society
  • Member Editorial Advisory Board for Lanmuir, Cellulose, J. Wood Science
  • Member Scientific Advisory Board - Wallenberg Wood Science Centre
  • Winner 2013 TAPPI, Van Den Akker Medal
  • Winner 2010 Faculty of Engineering Research Achievement Award, McMaster University
  • Winner Derek Page Award for the best paper in Journal Pulp & Paper Science 2005