Jan. 9, 2014

Schulich researchers get share of federal infrastructure support

Research investment from Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI)

Marc Strous, a new professor of geoscience who joined the University of Calgary in September, is receiving $399,205 to establish a new research program in energy bioengineering at the university. The aim is to pioneer unexplored microbiology processes and techniques to help advance Canada’s transition to cleaner energy systems.

Strous’ project is one of 11 research endeavours at the University of Calgary receiving more than $2.4 million in new infrastructure funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

Five of the initiatives are energy-related and include: a new research program in energy bioengineering; innovative research on heavy crude oil, natural gas and biomass; materials for next-generation fuel cells; optimizing oil and gas recovery; and new technologies for treating heavy oils (which can also be used to design novel materials such as polymer nano-composites).

In addition, six projects encompassing human and veterinary medicine received CFI funding today. Their areas of focus are: treatments for fatal “prion diseases;” repairing joint cartilage in patients with osteoarthritis; direct study of the lung immune system; analyzing massive amounts of genomic data; 3D biomedical imaging to detect birth defects and cancers; and early pregnancy problems in horses and the effects of assisted reproductive technologies.

Research investments linked to Canadian economy

“Our government believes significant investments made in Canadian research are essential to sparking innovation, economic prosperity and to improving the lives of Canadians," says Greg Rickford, minister of state (science and technology). "Supporting Canada’s universities, colleges and research hospitals will bring more innovative ideas to market and strengthen the economy of our country.”

From the most advanced sustainable energy research to medical technology, research conducted at CFI-funded facilities plays a vital role in communities across the country and contributes to Canada’s economic success and capacity to innovate.

“We are proud of all our researchers and thank the federal government for this new funding,” says Ed McCauley, University of Calgary vice-president (research). “This work fits well with the ‘Grand Challenges’ identified in the university’s new Energy Research Strategy, and it also reflects the impressive strength and scope of our human and veterinary medical research.”

“Together, these and other cutting-edge projects will help the university achieve its Eyes High goal to become one of Canada’s top five research universities,” adds McCauley.

For Strous, the infrastructure funded by CFI will integrate state-of-the-art metagenomic characterization of microbial communities into engineering practice at the University of Calgary. Metagenomics applies a suite of genomic technologies and bioinformatics tools to directly access the genetic content of entire communities of organisms.

“The establishment of this facility will allow students and postdocs in biology, geoscience and engineering to get hands-on experience with high-throughput DNA sequencing, one of the most important technological innovations of our time,” says Strous, a leader of the Energy Bioengineering Group in the Faculty of Science.

Schulich School of Engineering Researchers receiving Canada Foundation for Innovation (John R. Evans Leaders Fund) funding:

  • Kunal Karan, Schulich School of Engineering – $216,000

Infrastructure for nano-scale characterization of materials/structure for energy conversion and storage devices

This CFI funding will facilitate the development of the next-generation energy conversion and storage (ECS) devices operating on electrochemical principles. Prof. Karan’s research program seeks to overcome the inefficiencies associated with existing electricity generation processes and the challenges associated with electricity generation from renewable sources such as solar and wind that are intermittent and require effective electricity storage solutions. This CFI funding will support the development of low-cost, high-performance energy storage and conversion devices like water electrolyzers, batteries, and fuel cells. This will help maintain Canada’s leadership in the low-carbon footprint, advanced energy systems sector. The infrastructure will boost the activities of the recently launched CAESR (Calgary Advanced Energy Storage & Conversion Research) Group at the University of Calgary. The project will also provide opportunities for highly qualified trainees to meet the expected industrial demands created by the recent resurgence of these technologies.

A facility for innovative hydrocarbon energy research

This facility will support a research program to develop new technologies for optimizing Canada’s abundant heavy crude oil (including oil sands), natural gas and biomass resources, while reducing their environmental impact. The research undertaken by professors Song, Abedi and Husein will focus on using a range of advanced technologies to sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emission levels, and other environmental impacts. Their use of biomass will support and expand the agricultural sector in Canada, and will lower the greenhouse gas emissions from tailing ponds. The research focusing on biomass waste as feedstock for the proposed technology will improve the economic competitiveness of Canada’s agriculture industry, and will help secure its long-term future. 

Investigating nanoparticle/polymer interactions for novel materials design and heavy oils treatment via confocal rheology

This CFI funding will support research into novel product design with applications in biomedical and energy systems, through the use of imaging technologies to examine the relationship between the structure and materials of multiphase systems. Profs. Trifkovic and Sundararaj are researching utilizing hydocarbons in an economical and environmentally friendly way, the reclamation of waste produced by hydrocarbon processes, and the development of novel products for biomedical and energy systems. The research uses a setup that is unique in Canada, and will aid in the reduction of the carbon footprint associated with the enhanced oil recovery processes, generate economic benefits through more efficient technologies for hydrocarbons, and lead to new product development.