Professors Brenda McCabe (CivE), Kim Pressnail (CivE) and Ted Sargent (ECE), as well as CivE PhD candidates Marianne Touchie and Ekaterina Tzekova, have been named to the Clean50, an initiative by the Corporate Knights honouring outstanding contributors to sustainable development and clean capitalism in Canada.
Professors McCabe and Pressnail, along with Marianne Touchie and Ekaterina Tzekov, were recognized as a group for their creation of The Promise. In 2009, Professor Pressnail found a document created by the Cousteau Society that described our obligations to future generations. Inspired, he shared it with students; two of whom, Tzekov and Touchie, took the lead in revising it for use by Engineers, resulting in The Promise. Tzekov and Touchie had earlier galvanized support in the Department for introducing sustainability as a theme across the course material, and had been the catalysts for its integration in the curricula. They engaged Professor Pressnail and Department Chair McCabe in the re-design of the document and in garnering support among students and faculty. In 2009, the group asked professors and graduating students to sign the pledge (81 did) and in 2010 expanded it to include alumni – adding 38 more signatories. In 2011, the effort expanded once again, this time to encourage practicing engineers to sign on. In all, there are now 177 engineers in Canada who have taken The Promise.
Over the past several years, Professor Sargent has made a number of research breakthroughs which are paving the way for the widespread use of solar cells as an energy source. In 2005, he invented the first paint-on solar cell to harvest the sun’s abundant infrared rays. He then improved over ten-thousand-fold the performance of his new class of devices. His breakthrough solar cell significantly reduced costs associated with solar energy by enabling simple spray-coating of his semiconductor onto nearly any surface. A few months ago, Professor Sargent made an additional breakthrough in solar cell technology, creating the first efficient tandem solar cell based on colloidal quantum dots (CQD). The device is a stack of two light-absorbing layers – one tuned to capture the sun’s visible rays, the other engineered to harvest the half of the sun’s power that lies in the infrared spectrum. This is the first CQD solar cell which absorbs both infrared rays and visible rays on the same cell.By capturing such a broad range of light waves, tandem CQD solar cells can in principle reach up to 42% efficiencies. In comparison, the best single-junction solar cells are constrained to a maximum of 31% efficiency.
“The naming of these engineers to the 2012 Clean50 demonstrates not only the contributions our community members are making to sustainability in Canada, but the diverse ways in which we can work towards this important goal,” said Cristina Amon, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering.
The 2012 Clean50 will be honoured at the first annual Clean50 Summit at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club on the Toronto Islands on September 28.