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Dr. Robert Pelton


Department of Chemical Engineering

polymer colloids, water soluble polymers, interfacial engineering, flocculation, adhesion, cellulose, and pulp and paper technology
Areas of Specialization:
Research Clusters:
JHE 136B
+1 905.525.9140 x 27045


Research Interests

Applying colloid, polymer and nanoparticle science to important challenges in the Canadian forest, mining and agricultural sectors

Research Relevance

Canada makes important contributions to achieving the vision of a more sustainable bio-economy in which innovative, bio-based approaches will replace petrochemical products and processes. With 10% of the world’s forests, our traditional pulp and paper industries have much to offer the bio-economy transformation.  Our research is focused on developing new materials based upon cellulose fibres, and new applications ranging from paper-based biosensors to large scale applications in agriculture.

Mineral processing is another important Canadian industry.  The critical challenge is to extract valuable material from ores in cost effective processes with minimal environmental impact.  Our group has developed nanoparticle flotation reagents that provide new routes to processing troublesome ores.

Agriculture is vital everywhere.  Our research is focused on two aspects of agriculture: 1) understanding the mechanism by which sprayed agricultural chemicals enter plants; and, 2) designing new biodegradable plant growth media for greenhouse agriculture.

Research Philosophy 

Our projects take a fundamental mechanistic approach to important Canadian problems.  We publish in good journals, and have active industrial partners.  As result, my students go on to establish successful careers in the industries related to their university research. I believe research must have impact.  For graduate students, impact requires good publications; for industry partners impact means new understanding leading to new technology.


  • 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. Working with 60+ graduate students, 36 post docs, and 100+ summer students, Pelton’s team has produced more than 315 peer reviewed publications and 10500 citations (ISI H index 49) 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 has won a number of 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), and the 2010 Faculty of Engineering Research Achievement Award, McMaster University.  Pelton is a TAPPI fellow and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Pelton current works in the areas of papermaking technologies, bioactive paper, colloids, water-soluble polymers, adhesion, and interfacial aspects of agriculture.

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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