Posted February 10th, 2015 by RJ Taylor

U of T Engineering researchers awarded $3.5 million to tackle industry challenges

  • Professor Cathy Chin is co-leading one of eight U of T Engineering projects that received NSERC Strategic Partnership Grants for Projects this week.

From smart sensors that limit driver distraction to new tools that convert methane into useful products, researchers at U of T Engineering got a major boost this week with a $3.5 million investment from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

NSERC is kick-starting eight new projects in the Faculty through Strategic Partnership Grants for Projects—a program designed to fund industry-related research and training in early-stage, high-risk projects that might otherwise have trouble attracting the funds needed to carry out their research.

Professor Cathy Chin (ChemE) is co-leading a project alongside professors Charles Mims (ChemE) and Doug Perovic (MSE) that received $288,425 to explore new methods of transforming greenhouse gases into valuable products.

“We’re developing a range of nanoparticles—what we call ‘catalyst materials’—that can convert methane and carbon dioxide into ‘syngas’,” said Professor Chin. “This syngas is a fuel-gas mixture that can later be used to generate energy or make agricultural fertilizers.”

The research project will be housed within Chin’s Multidisciplinary Laboratory for Innovative Catalytic Science in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, and it will make use of the Faculty’s microscopic and spectroscopic tools in the new Ontario Centre for Characterization of Advanced Materials (OCCAM) that are unique to Canada.

“In its most basic sense, we are fabricating nanoparticles that allow new chemistry to happen for producing clean fuels, energies, and chemicals,” she said.

Other successful investigators in the Faculty include:

  • Grant Allen (ChemE), $472,000 awarded for: “Developing biofilm-based microalgal bioreactors for the efficient production of fuels, chemicals and clean water”
  • George Eleftheriades (ECE), $495,948 awarded for: “Field-discontinuity metasurfaces for electromagnetic wave manipulation”
  • Ramin Farnood (ChemE), $447,700 awarded for: “Developing novel elecro-spun nano-fibre membrane adsorption systems for water treatment.”
  • Peter Herman (ECE), $444,621 awarded for: “Quantized structuring of transparent film and plates with ultrafast laser interference and filamentation.”
  • Charles Jia (ChemE), $482,245 awarded for: “High performance, low-cost porous carbons from oil petroleum coke.”
  • Frank Kschischang (ECE), $432,371 awarded for: “Error control for terabit links: spatially-coupled staircase codes.”
  • Konstantinos Plataniotis (ECE), $438,500 awarded for: “DREAMs: Enhancing driver interaction with digital media through cognitive monitoring.”

Across the University of Toronto, 12 project teams received funding through this round of NSERC’s Strategic Partnership Grants for Projects, including the eight engineering teams, totalling more than $5.3 million. (Read more about other U of T projects)

“These 12 projects have the potential to bring great benefit to society in coming years, and we are extremely grateful to NSERC for championing this kind of work, and for its continued investment in U of T research,” said Professor Vivek Goel, U of T’s vice-president of research and innovation.

With files from Sarah McDonald and Jenny Hall.