Cellulose fibres produced from wood can be made into nanocrystalline cellulose, which Domtar and FPInnovations hope to turn into commercial products. ((Jacques Boissinot/Canadina Press))

The federal and Quebec governments are putting up at least $20 million to build a demonstration plant that aims to bring nanotechnology to the forest industry.

The money will go toward the $32.4-million building cost and $8.4-million operating cost of the plant, to be built at Domtar Corp.'s Windsor, Que., pulp and paper mill.

The demonstration plant will produce a tonne of nanocrystalline cellulose a day when it's finished in about 20 months.

Domtar and its partner, FPInnovations, a not-for-profit forest industry research group, will use the plant to explore the commercial viability of nanocrystalline cellulose.

Nanocrystalline cellulose is a renewable, recyclable and abundant nanomaterial made of cellulose fibres from the wood pulp manufacturing process. According to FPInnovations, it can be used to make iridescent or magnetic flexible films, pigments, construction products, bioplastics and a host of other products.

Both John D. Williams, Domtar president and CEO, and Pierre Lapointe, president and CEO of FPInnovations, said they were confident the material will have commercial applications.

As well as $10.2 million each from Quebec and Canada, which will be invested through FPInnovations, Domtar is looking for $12 million from the federal Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program.

About 10 jobs will be created to operate the plant, but researchers and scientists are continuing to work on potential new nanocrystalline cellulose applications and products.