"Our new facility being built in London, Ontario will be the most advanced manufacturing plant in Fine Quartz Surface business. We are confident our HanStone Fine Quartz Surface business will grow and be successful in North America with the continued strong support and cooperation from the City of London. We greatly appreciate the community's warm welcome to our company."
With annual research expenditures of more than $223 million and an international reputation for success, Western University ranks as one of the top ten research-intensive universities in Canada. Ultimately, Research Western's goal is to firmly establish an entrepreneurial research culture and to encourage the practice of innovation in all units at Western.
Renewable Energy at Western
With escalating concerns about global energy shortages and the impact of human activity on ecosystems, a great deal of attention has been invested in the advancement of knowledge related to renewable forms of energy, including solar and wind power, and biofuels.
The Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel Laboratory was created more than 40 years ago to provide important solutions to complex wind engineering problems, including siting of wind turbines. The lab’s engineers subject scale models of structures to high winds in one of two wind tunnels, revealing details about the dynamics and properties of structural loads and giving architects critical insight into designing structures that can better sustain extreme winds.
Western’s engineers have proposed to build the new WindEEE Dome to help uncover aspects of wind flows, patterns and energy that cannot be elucidated by wind tunnels alone. The Dome will give researchers information on how wind interacts with natural and constructed environments, and is particularly critical for investigating swirling flows such as tornadoes and cyclones, and transient shear flows such as downbursts and microbursts.
The Insurance Research Lab for Better Homes is the first facility of its kind in the world to allow researchers to simulate and study realistic damage to full-scale houses from wind, snow and rain – all within a controlled environment. The facility contains a typical two-storey brick house that comes complete with plumbing and heating, and has been built with an average number of construction flaws. Dubbed the ‘Three Little Pigs’ project, it is helping engineers assess and accurately predict how houses or light structures might behave under environmental stresses such as hurricanes.
The Advanced Facility for Avian Research (AFAR) is home to the world’s first hypobaric bird wind tunnel, a $4-million structure that gives its researchers precise control over internal conditions such as moisture, temperature and pressure, enabling them to simulate the climate and altitudes experienced by birds as they fly. The wind tunnel permits a new level of study of the biological parameters and survival of migrating birds. In particular, scientists will be able to elucidate the physiological effects and aerodynamics of long distance, high altitude migration.
Canada Research Chair in Wind Engineering, Greg Kopp, is developing new, experimental and theoretical approaches to analyzing turbulence in fluid flows. Turbulence can be an expensive problem in many industrial activities. Being able to determine its causes and the prospect of mitigating or enhancing it will have a significant impact.
Solar Energy Research at Western
In order to address global energy shortages and the need for novel clean technologies, it has become imperative to further research that develops sustainable alternatives for powering the modern world. Solar energy is one such option.
Bringing together expertise from a variety of disciplines, research in this area at Western University is loosely categorized under four areas: Advanced Materials for Better Solar Cells, Power Systems and Integration, Protecting Solar Infrastructure and Materials for Better Energy Storage.
Advanced Materials for Better Solar Cells
The high manufacturing cost of fuel cells and low efficiency of photovoltaic (PV) conversion continue to be roadblocks to the widespread adoption of solar energy. Several researchers at Western are attempting to remedy these challenges, while ushering in a new generation of materials for solar cells and advancing the University’s established strengths in materials characterization and modification.
Chemistry professor Zhifeng Ding, for example, is improving the electrochemical fabrication of CIGS (copper, indium, gallium and selenium) thin film solar cells, focusing on a promising production method that uses electrodeposition as a technique for developing them. His colleague, Oleg Semenikhin, is improving the photoefficiency of organic semiconductors based on polythiophenes and other conjugated polymers to be used in all-organic solar cells. Engineer Paul Charpentier is developing a new class of low-cost PV devices based on nano TiO2 and quantum dots, which have been shown to produce multiple excitons per photon, providing the potential for a new generation of high-performance materials. Further developments are being made by Leo Lau and his team at Surface Science Western, the University’s consulting and research laboratory, which handles all aspects of material surface properties.
Power Systems and Integration
Engineering professor Rajiv Varma leads the $6-million Ontario Centres of Excellence project “Large-Scale Photovoltaic Solar Power Integration in Transmission and Distribution Networks,” which involves 16 faculty members – 10 from Western and six from the University of Waterloo – to integrate solar power into the grid. The project is also supported by four major industries/ utilities: Hydro One, Optisolar Farms Canada, London Hydro and Bluewater Power, Sarnia. His colleague, Kamran Siddiqui, is working to optimize solar thermal collectors for water heating systems and Hydro One Chair in Power Systems Engineering Tarlochan Sidhu carries out research in the fields of power system protection and monitoring. His group is particularly interested in applications of microprocessors, computers and newer technologies for achieving improved protection and monitoring of power systems. This work involves the design, implementation and testing of relays and power system instrumentation that uses digital signal processing, artificial intelligence techniques and other novel methods.
Protecting Solar Infrastructure
Solar Energy research at Western is not limited to the development of components that will maximize solar energy capture, storage and distribution, but also includes efforts to increase device safety and efficiency once in place. As examples, Engineering professors Horia Hangan, Hanping Hong and Greg Kopp’s work at the Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel Laboratory, ‘Three Little Pigs’ facility and the soon-to-be-constructed WindEEE Dome are helping better understand risks posed by wind and snow loads on solar cells and structures.
Materials for Better Energy Storage
A key challenge to the efficiency of solar energy relates to its storage following capture. To this end, Engineer Andy Sun works with novel nanomaterials for energy storage and is developing highly efficient batteries and fuel cells. His efforts are building a scientific base for the large-scale production of nanotube-based nanomaterials with the controlled structure and specific properties for applications in areas such as fuel cells, batteries and sensing technologies. Oleg Semenikhin, mentioned above, is also developing novel battery materials.
Biofuels and Alternative Energy
Western’s scientists and engineers are discovering new ways to use alternative energy more efficiently and are exploring an array of biofuels and other clean energy sources to reduce fossil fuel dependence. They have designed a novel class of fuel cell expected to produce electricity while consuming carbon dioxide, making it the most energy-efficient fuel cell yet.
Western’s Power Systems Engineering Group is working to restructure the electric industry and accelerate the growth of clean energy sources such as fuel cells, while scientists at the Particle Technology Research Centre are pioneering alternative energy projects such as developing biodiesel, using semiconductor photocatalysis to produce clean fuel and manufacturing carbon nanotubes for solar energy.
At the Chemical Reactor Engineering Centre, engineers are developing innovative green reactor technologies such as the catalytic desulphurization of gasoline, the design of novel fuel cells and the treatment of toxic contaminants in air, water and soil by advanced oxidation processes.
Western is also building the Ontario Bioindustrial Innovation Centre for research and development of environmentally friendly alternatives to fossil fuels and integration of the renewable bio-based and traditional petrochemical industries.
Promoting sustainable farming and renewable energy development, the University has launched the Western Bioproducts Initiative, which involves building a new biogas facility in Ilderton, Ontario as well as the Institute for Chemicals and Fuels from Alternative Resources (ICFAR) at Western’s field station. The biogas facility will be equipped with a biodigester system that converts manure and wastewater into energy while reducing greenhouse gases, and ICFAR will be a research and development facility for generating functional biofuels that serve as alternate energy sources.
Water and Remediation
Western University has an established track record in many different aspects of water research, including water and wastewater treatment, conservation and efficiency, and monitoring and sustainability.
Current and emerging research in the Faculty of Engineering include:
Impact of climate change on water resources, source water protection and water quality: How do the expected paths of climate, environmental (especially water-related), and economic variables change when feedbacks between the economy and the environment in the Great Lakes Basin are fully modeled?
Small- or mid-flow drinking water treatment systems: low-cost and mobile photo-reactors and experimental testing using small-scale and medium-scale prototypes that can treat rain, river and lake waters.
Emerging contaminants in water: pharmaceuticals, personal care products and endocrine disrupting compounds.
Wastewater technologies: novel advanced oxidation technologies, scale-up from the bench top to pilot and full production scale.
Process technologies: UV and visible-light photocatalysts, advanced oxidation processes, novel reactor design.
The Faculty’s most recent faculty hires include Jason Gerhard, José Herrera, Denis O’Carroll, Lars Rehmann, and Clare Robinson to the already existing faculty members that include Amarjeet Bassi, Hugo deLasa, George Nakhla, Ajay K. Ray, Mita Ray, Slobodan Simonovic,Ernest Yanful, and Jesse Zhu.
Specific facilities, programs and people across campus include:
Research for Subsurface Transport and Remediation(RESTORE)is developing innovative site remediation technologies for hazardous industrial pollutants in soil and groundwater. It is focused on sustainable remediation: strategies that use less energy, create less waste, incur less adverse environmental impact and/or cost less than current strategies, while effectively reducing both contamination and risk to health. This group, led by Jason Gerhard, Dennis O’Carroll, José Herrera and Clare Robinson, is developing a wide array of practical and cost-effective technologies and strategies for eliminating hazardous chemicals in soil.
At the Chemical Reactor Engineering Centre (CREC), engineers are developing innovative green reactor technologies such as the catalytic desulphurization of gasoline, the design of novel fuel cells and the treatment of toxic contaminants in air, water and soil by advanced oxidation processes.
Western’s Geotechnical Research Centre (GRC) is comprised of a core group of researchers who are finding solutions to a range of challenging geotechnical and geoenvironmental problems. The seven faculty members and 10 associate and adjunct members involved are emphasizing research about renewable energy and infrastructure rehabilitation. This research expertise is extremely broad and extends to different areas, including groundwater contamination and remediation, management of mine wastes and deep geological disposal of high-level radioactive nuclear waste.
The Facility for Intelligent Decision Support (FIDS) studies questions related to water technology and policy from a systems modeling perspective. Areas of expertise include Risk and Reliability; Water Resources and Environmental Systems Analysis; Computer-based Decision Support Systems Development; Water Resources Education and Training. Specific technical topics include Reservoirs, Flood control, Hydropower energy and Operational hydrology.
A partnership between Western, the insurance industry and other institutions, the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) is a unique research network that is internationally recognized for its interdisciplinary work toward minimizing and preventing the destructive effects of natural catastrophes. The ICLR’s members examine the political, scientific, social, health, cultural and economic impacts behind natural hazards in hopes of preventing them from becoming full-blown disasters.
Canada Research Chair in Geoenvironmental Restoration Engineering, Jason Gerhard, is developing a wider array of practical and cost-effective technologies and strategies for eliminating hazardous chemicals in the soil. Instead of guessing at what works right, Gerhard recreates the environment of a toxic site in his lab, and then runs a number of tests to see which strategies work best. This helps him understand the complex ways different chemicals interact during the restoration process. The results of these experiments are fed into a computer that is loaded with special software created by Gerhard's research group. This software allows the researchers to simulate all manner of contaminated sites, and to try out a wide variety of treatments. That way, when it comes to tackle the problem in the real world, it can be done efficiently and with the most modern and cost-effective techniques.
Canada Research Chair in Watershed Sciences, Irena Creed, is developing simulation and monitoring techniques that will allow us to better predict the fate of forests, by understanding their watersheds. This research will establish accurate limits for the sustainable use of forests, which will benefit parks and resource managers, industry and the many Canadians who live in forested areas or use them recreationally.
Canada Research Chair in Technology, Culture and Risk, Joy Parr’s, research focuses on understanding how people react to social, cultural, environmental and technological change within their community. She is interested in radical transformations in place, community, policy and material culture. Parr will examine the relationship between technology, culture and risk, primarily in communities where megaprojects changed the reality of daily life, but she will also focus on Walkerton, Ontario, where the occurrence of toxic water was related to a number of issues rather than a specific local project, and had profound impacts which still affect the community nearly a decade later.
Canada Research Chair in Powder Technology Applications, Jesse Zhu, is developing powder technologies that include biological wastewater treatment and gasification of municipal wastes.
A large CFI LEF grant led by Hugo de Lasa addresses the development of environmentally friendly solar-based processes for the photocatalytic technologies for water treatment and production of clean hydrogen by splitting water. By harnessing solar energy, photocatalytic technologies can provide drinking water with minimal energy and capital costs, and eliminate the use of harmful chemicals.
George Nakhla’s research interests lie in the general area of environmental engineering and water and soil pollution control. His main areas of expertise are biological municipal and industrial wastewater treatment, biological nutrient removal processes, biological detoxification of hazardous contaminants, soil and ground water bioremediation, and landfill leachate treatment.
Ernest Yanful has been conducting applied research to develop innovative technologies for waste management for the mining industry in the last 13 years. His major contribution has been in the area of developing and optimizing soil cover designs for preventing or controlling acidic drainage in waste rock and tailings from mining and milling of metal and uranium ore.
Mita Ray's research involves the development of environmentally friendly ways of removing pollutants, chemicals and pharmaceuticals from wastewater. This involves the development of new green processes as well as new systems and technologies for waste water treatment.
Ajay Ray's research involves the design of technologies and processes for photocatalysis and separation. As examples, he aims to design new equipment that will enable sun-powered remediation of environmental pollutants to produce potable water and enable use of sunlight for splitting water into clean hydrogen fuel with zero CO2 emission.
Slobodan Simonovic’s primary research interest focuses on the application of systems approach to management of complex water and environmental systems. He has completed more than 70 research projects with a budget of more than $4 million and tries to, in his words, “put the water in the heads of decision makers'.
For details on Western’s Renewable Technology capabilities, please select from the following:
Agri Biorefinery Network
Centre for Environment and Sustainability
Energy and Environment
Solar Energy Research
Biochemical and biomaterials
The Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel
Chemical Reactor Engineering Centre
Geotechnical Research Centre
Fanshawe is home to the Centre for Sustainable Energy Environments (CSEE).
This centre is the umbrella for a series of environmental projects aimed at optimization, adoption, integration and commercialization of renewable energy and recycling technologies. There are currently seven projects underway:
A better battery recharging system and efficiency enhancements for solar-powered small utility vehicles, a project that already has resulted in Fanshawe’s first United States Provisional Patent Pending and the building of a solar powered golf cart prototype;
A solar power station optimization/algorithm for transferring solar power to the Ontario energy grid at peak times;
Improved solar power collection and power storage systems;
A solar powered de-icing system for parking garages, roads and other concrete infrastructure;
Solar awnings and blinds for residential and commercial properties;
A more efficient wind turbine;
Methods/technologies to use composted organic waste and by-products to grow food and plants in greenhouses.
For additional information on opportunities to partner with Fanshawe, contact:
Dan Douglas, Acting Dean Applied Research, Centre for Research and Innovation
T3010, Fanshawe College,
1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., London, ON. N5Y 5R6
Phone: 1 (519) 452-4292