U of T researchers receive funding for energy research from the Ontario Research Fund

Friday, December 5, 2008 9:30:00 AM

Research News

Several University of Toronto researchers have been awarded funding from the Ontario Research Fund in support of research projects in the Cleantech sector, an area of the economy that brings together environmental solutions and economic potential. In October 2008, the Ontario government announced that it be investing more than $5 million to support innovative research in 34 research projects in this area at 11 postsecondary institutions across the province. The following researchers and projects at U of T have will receive funding:

Vy Dong, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry; Developing new tools for constructing organic molecules:  Organic molecules are carbon-containing compounds that make up important goods all around us, including our food, pharmaceuticals, clothing and fuels. At the Modern Laboratory for Innovation in Organic Synthesis and Catalysis at U of T, researchers are inventing better tools for constructing various organic molecules. Ultimately, this research will lead to more efficient, environmentally-friendly and less wasteful processes for synthesizing drug candidates and other innovative materials.  For more information: http://www.chem.utoronto.ca/staff/vdong/

Elizabeth Edwards, Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry: Developing solutions for pressing environmental and energy problems: Motivated by health, environmental and economic security, the 21st century is poised to be the century of biotechnology. With roughly ten per cent of the world's forests, seven per cent of its fresh water and a highly educated research community, Canada has the potential to become a world leader in biotechnologies in the areas of renewable energy and materials, clean soil and water. At BioZone, a unique research facility at U of T, Dr. Edwards heads a multidisciplinary team of scientists engaged in developing solutions for pressing problems in energy and the environment.  For more information: http://chem-eng.utoronto.ca/~biodegraders/

Mansoor Barati, Assistant Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering; Developing solutions for efficient energy, high-quality materials and environmentally responsible processes: Ontario is a leader in the minerals and metals industry, contributing substantially to the nation's economy. Dr. Barati is focused on high temperature materials processing research, specifically, novel and advanced processes for extracting and refining metals and alloys with high performance at low cost. His work will lead to innovative solutions for energy efficiency, higher quality materials and environmentally responsible processes.  For more information: http://www.mse.utoronto.ca/contacts/Professors/Barati__Mansoor.htm

Olivera Kesler, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering; Realizing the potential of fuel cell technology: Despite the perception that fuel cell technology is years away, fuel cells are in use in many places - and once the technology is perfected, it has the potential to power everything from vehicles to homes and businesses. Dr. Kesler is working to realize the potential of fuel cells with a focus on the solid oxide fuel cell, which can run on both traditional fuels and on renewable fuels such as hydrogen, biogas and ethanol. Her goal is to reduce the cost and improve the performance and lifetime of fuel cells. For more information: http://www.mie.utoronto.ca/faculty/kesler/index.html

Jochen Halfar, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences, U of T Mississauga; Determining human impact on marine climate change: Using state-of-the-art equipment and methods, Dr. Halfar will investigate marine climate change by analyzing climate archives with unprecedented precision. His goal is to determine human impact on climate and ecosystems with a view to predicting future climate evolution. His work will help to assess the consequences of rapid climate change in Ontario and globally. For more information: http://www.utm.utoronto.ca/~w3halfar/

Helene Wagner, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, U of T Mississauga; Discovering how landscape modification impacts ecosystems: What happens to an ecosystem when humans modify the landscape? At the new Spatial Ecology and Landscape Genetics Laboratory, Dr. Wagner is working with a local conservation management agency to use a variety of methods including field data collection of plant species and modeling to evaluate a landscape modification experiment that has been running for nearly 20 years. Her goal is the development of conservation best practices based on a scientific understanding of how landscape modification affects the organisms at the actual location of human activity and in the surrounding landscape. For more information: http://www.utm.utoronto.ca/~wagnerh1/

Arthur Weis, Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Ecology; Anticipating the effects of climate change: The global climate is changing at a rate and scale not seen since the end of the last ice age. How will this dramatic change in climate affect efforts to preserve important plant and tree species? How will it change the threat they face from weed and pest species? These are questions that Dr. Weis aims to answer through field- and growth-chamber-based experiments that will test the fitness of plant species under conditions that simulate the future climate. For more information: http://www.eeb.utoronto.ca/people/faculty/weis

Georgia Fotopoulos, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering; Monitoring urban centres to protect our infrastructure: Land subsidence is the lowering of the land-surface elevation due to changes that take place underground. It can cause great damage to buildings, bridges, roads and pipelines. At a new Goedetic Urban Monitoring Facility, Dr. Fotopoulos is using multi-sensor geodetic satellite data and state-of-the-art terrestrial tools to monitor land subsidence. The goal is to provide an accurate framework and contemporary solutions to the imminent problem of land deformation in urban areas of Canada. For more information: http://www.civil.engineering.utoronto.ca/infoabout/staff/professors/fotopoulos.htm

Nathan Basiliko, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, U of T Mississauga; Learning how soil microorganisms work to help us manage our resources in the face of climate change: At the Advanced Soil Biogeochemistry and Microbial Ecology Research Facility, Dr. Basiliko is looking for answers to important issues of environmental change in soil microorganisms which are essential to the life-giving properties of soil yet are poorly understood. Using advanced technology, he is researching the link between communities of soil microorganisms and larger wetland and forest ecosystem dynamics. The goal is to improve our ability to adapt resource management in the face of climate change. For more information: http://eratos.erin.utoronto.ca/basiliko/

Kaley Walker, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics; Determining how ozone is changing our atmosphere: At the Laboratory for Atmospheric Spectroscopy and Applications, Dr. Walker is constructing, testing and deploying an instrument to accurately measure the concentrations of ozone and related gases in the atmosphere. The goal is to find out how the amounts of these gases are changing and what the changes mean for our environment. Her research will help policy makers develop programs to protect the environment and human health.

Myrna Simpson, Associate Professor, Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences, U of T Scarborough; Discovering the effects of contaminants in soil, air and water: Dr. Simpson is developing metabolic profiling methods to assess organism stress after exposure to contaminated soils.  This could become a leading diagnostic tool for government and industry to use to screen potential human health risks from long-term exposure to low levels of organic chemicals in the environment, and determine "healthy" contaminant levels and could also lead to more effective remediation methods. For more information: http://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~msimpson/

(This is an edited excerpt of an article from http://www.mri.gov.on.ca.)