The fuel cell holds great promise as a technology that could well provide a way of powering our vehicles with much less energy use and environmental damage. But the technology isn’t quite right – yet. Fortunately, U of T Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Professor Aimy Bazylak is on the case. She is focusing on the fact that fuel cell performance is compromised by water build-up. And her investigation into this phenomenon just got a big boost from the Province of Ontario’s Early Researcher Awards (ERA) program. Bazylak is one of seven U of T Engineering professors in the early stages of their research careers whose work has been honoured with funding from the ERA, which helps recently appointed Ontario researchers to build their teams and enables Ontario to attract and retain the best and brightest research talent. Each researcher receives $140,000 toward their projects. “This research work is important to helping us meet our healthcare challenges while fostering long-term job creation and economic growth. Ontario is a leader in healthcare innovation, and this furthers that position,” said Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development and Innovation. Bazylak says the ERA will enable her to “lead my research group to advance the understanding and development of polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells, which convert hydrogen and oxygen to electricity, with only water and heat as local by-products. This funding will enable me to use state-of-the-art x-ray radiography to study the microscale features of the fuel cell and develop a powerful modelling tool for designing the next generation of fuel cells.” In addition to Bazylak, the other U of T Engineering ERA winners include:
- Ashish Jagadish Khisti, The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE);
- Sean Hum, ECE;
- Natalie Enright Jerger, ECE;
- Timothy Ching-yee Chan, MIE;
- Khandker Nurul Habib, Civil Engineering (CivE); and,
- Daman Panesar, CivE.
U of T President David Naylor hailed the value of the ERA. “The University of Toronto appreciates the Ontario government’s commitment to path-breaking research in the arts and humanities, social sciences and sciences alike,” said Naylor. “The Early Researcher Awards are an important step in supporting promising young researchers as they seek solutions to the most pressing issues of our time.” U of T performed well in the ERA competition, capturing 21 in total, which represents 33% of all the awards given to Ontario institutions. In addition, five U of T faculty members who applied through U of T partner hospitals were also awarded ERAs. Professor Paul Young, U of T’s Vice President, Research, notes that “while U of T has always done well in the ERA competition, our results in this round are stunning. This is a clear reflection of the quality of our early career researchers and the innovation inherent in their work. On behalf of the University, I applaud our new ERA winners and we offer our thanks to the Province of Ontario.”