Canada’s Western Economic Diversification and Canada Research Chairs (CRC) programmes both made nanotechnology funding announcements late last week on March 28, 2014.
From a March 28, 2014 news item on CJME radio online,
Funding for nanotechnology was announced at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) on Friday [March 28, 2014].
Researchers will work on developing nanostructured coatings for parts of artificial joints and even mining equipment.
The $183,946 investment from the Western Economic Diversification Canada will go towards purchasing tailor-made equipment that will help apply the coating.
A March 29, 2014 article by Scott Larson for the Leader-Post provides more details,
In the near future when someone has a hip replacement, the new joint might actually last a lifetime thanks to cutting edge nanotechnology research being done by Qiaoqin Yang and her team. Yang, Canada Research Chair in nanoengineering coating technologies and professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Saskatchewan, has received $183,946 from Western Economic Diversification (WD) to purchase specially made equipment for nanotechnology research.
The equipment will help in developing and testing nanostructured coatings to increase the durability of hard-to-reach industrial and medical components.
“The diamond-based coating is biocompatible and has high wear resistance,” Yang said of the coating material.
There will be four industry-specific coating prototypes tested for projects such as solar energy systems, artificial joints, and mining and oilsands equipment.
Yang said artificial joints usually only last 10-20 years.
I have written about hip and knee replacements and issues with the materials most recently in a Feb. 5, 2013 posting.
As for the CRC announcement about the University of Alberta, here’s more from the March 28, 2014 article by Catherine Griwkowsky for the Edmonton Sun,
The Canadian Research Chairs funding announcement means 11 chair appointments, renewals and tier advancements, part of the 100 faculty who are chair holders at the university.
Carlo Montemagno, Canada Research Chair in Intelligent Nanosystems, said the funding will usher in the next generation in nanotechnology.
“It’s not just the money, it’s the recognition and the visibility that comes with the title,” Montemagno said. “That provides an opportunity for me to be more effective recruiting talent into my laboratory.”
He said the chair position at the University of Alberta allows him to go after riskier projects with a higher impact.
“It provides a nucleating force that allows us to gravitationally pull in talent and resources to position ourselves as global leaders,” Montemagno said.
Previously, he had worked at Cornell University, department head at University of California Los Angeles and dean of engineering at the University of Cincinnati.
Minister of State for Science and Technology Ed Holder said the $88 million will help with Canada’s economic prosperity and will attract more researchers to the country from around the world. …
“I think it’s a huge compliment to what the government of Canada is doing in terms of research and I think it’s a great, great credit to those Canadians who say I can do the best and the greatest research right here in Canada.
He said the success is attracting Canadians back.
Holder, who took over as science boss just over a week ago, said the government has received acknowledgment from granting councils. …
Holder said the proposed budget has an additional $1.5 billion in new money in the budget for research.
Upcoming research projects from the National Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Alberta:
Artificially engineered system that incorporates the process of photosynthesis in a non-living thing with living elements to convert CO2 emissions to a sellable commodity like rare earth and precious metals.
Extracting minerals and chemicals in waste treatment such as tailings ponds, to clean up polluted water and take out valuable resources.
Cleaning and purifying water with an engineered variant of a molecule 100 times more efficient than current technology, opening land for agricultural development, or industrial plants.
Montemagno has an intriguing turn of phrase “a nucleating force that allows us to gravitationally pull in talent and resources” which I think could be summed up as “money lets us buy what we want with regard to researchers and equipment.” (I first mentioned Montegmagno in a Nov. 19, 2013 post about Alberta’s nanotechnology-focused Ingenuity Lab which he heads.) Holder’s comments are ‘on message’ as they say these days or, as old-timers would say, his comments follow the government’s script.
The listing of the National Institute of Nanotechnology (NINT) projects in Griwkowsky’s article seems a bit enigmatic since there’s no explanation offered as to why these are being included in the newspaper article. The confusion can be cleared up by reading the March 28, 2014 University of Alberta news release,
“Our work is about harnessing the power of ‘n’—nature, nanotechnology and networks,” said Montemagno, one of 11 U of A faculty members who received CRC appointments, renewals or tier advancements. “We use living systems in nature as the inspiration; we use nanotechnology, the ability to manipulate matter at its smallest scale; and we build systems in the understanding that we have to make these small elements work together in complex networks.”
The physical home of this work is Ingenuity Lab, a collaboration between the U of A, the National Institute for Nanotechnology and Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures. Montemagno is the director, and he has assembled a team of top scientists with backgrounds in biochemistry, organic chemistry, neurobiology, molecular biology, physics, computer science, engineering and material science.
Turning CO2 in something valuable
Reducing greenhouse gases is one of the challenges his team is working to address, by capturing carbon dioxide emissions and converting them into high-value chemicals.
Montemagno said the process involves mimicking photosynthesis, using engineered molecules to create a structure that metabolizes CO2. Unlike fermentation and other processes used to convert chemicals, this method is far more energy-efficient, he said.
“You make something that has the same sort of features that are associated with a living process that you want to emulate.”
In another project, Montemagno’s team has turned to cells, viruses and bacteria and how they identify chemicals to react to their environment, with the aim of developing “an exquisite molecular recognition technology” that can find rare precious metals in dilute quantities for extraction. This type of bio-mining is being explored to transform waste from a copper mine into a valuable product, and ultimately could benefit oilsands operations as well.
“The idea is converting waste into a resource and doing it in a way in which you provide more economic opportunity while you’re being a stronger steward of our natural resources.”
Congratulations to the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Alberta!
(A University of British Columbia CRC founding announcement was mentioned in my March 31, 2014 posting about Ed Holder, the new Minister of State (Science and Technology).