Tag Archives: WIN

Canadian federal government coughs up funds ($1.8M) for ecoEnergy project at the University of Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology

Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of  Canada, recently announced a series of 32 grants for Natural Resources Canada’s ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative. From the May 3, 2013 announcement,

To this end, on May 3, 2013, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced support of more than $82 million through Natural Resources Canada’s ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative (ecoEII) for 55 innovative projects across Canada. Of these, 15 will be pre-commercialization demonstration projects to test the feasibility of various technologies, and 40 will be research and development projects to address knowledge gaps and bring technologies from the conceptual stage to the ready-to-be-tested stage of development.

For all projects, funding provided by NRCan will be allocated from the date of signature of contribution agreements until March 31, 2016, the project end date.

Since 2006, the Government of Canada has taken action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build a more sustainable environment through more than $10 billion in investments in green infrastructure, energy efficiency, clean energy technologies and the production of cleaner energy and cleaner fuels.

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High Energy Density Energy Storage for Automotive Applications
Lead Proponent: University of Waterloo
Location: Waterloo, Ontario
Funding: $1,870,000

Today’s electric vehicles are limited by driving range and cost, both of which greatly depend on the electric vehicle’s battery pack. The objective of this project is to develop advanced energy materials based on nanotechnology concepts for high energy density storage.

There’s more about the announcement in a May 14, 2013 news item in the LabCanada.com Daily news,

Led by Professor Linda Nazar of the Faculty of Science and the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Waterloo, the study will examine completely new approaches to materials and chemical components of batteries that could result in more powerful, and longer-lasting batteries for hybrid electric or electric cars.

“The funding from Natural Resources Canada allows us to expand our electrochemical energy storage laboratory here at Waterloo to explore beyond lithium-ion batteries using nanotechnology and completely different approaches to battery chemistry,” said Professor Nazar, a Canada Research Chair in Solid State Energy Materials. “This research is high-risk, but it has the potential to create batteries with much greater storage capacity and at lower costs.”

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) is providing $1.8 million over four years to Professor Nazar for her work titled High Energy Density Storage for Automotive Applications.  Partnerships on the project include Hydro-Québec, the Korea Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning, and BASF (SE).

For anyone who’s interested in Natural Resources Canada’s ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative (ecoEII), here’s the website.

Waterloo Institute of Nanotechnology/EcoSynthetix industrial partnership and an interlaced relationship

The EcoSynthetix and Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology partnership announced today (Mar. 13, 2013) is an example of how tightly interlaced the relationships between academic institutions and their graduates’ start-up companies can be. A Mar. 13, 2013 news item on Nanowerk describes the partnership,

EcoSynthetix Inc. and the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Waterloo have joined forces through an industrial partnership to collaborate on new applications for EcoSynthetix’ EcoSphere® technology. The five-year agreement will be jointly funded through an EcoSynthetix and NSERC (National Sciences and Engineering Research Council) Collaborative Research and Development Grant. The project matches the scientific expertise from the University of Waterloo in macromolecular science with the sustainability benefits of EcoSphere® bio-based nanoparticles which are based on green chemistry. The goal of the project is to broaden the scientific knowledge base of the EcoSphere® technology to support its introduction into new application areas.

The Mar. 13, 2013 EcoSynthetix news release, which originated the news item, mentions the relationship in passing while extolling the virtues of the partnership,

“As a global centre of excellence for nanotechnology research, this project represents a great opportunity for our institute, faculty and students at the University, to collaborate with a local innovator to further our understanding of the technology and its potential applications,” said Dr. Arthur J. Carty, Executive Director of the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology (“WIN”) and an independent director of the board of EcoSynthetix. [emphasis mine] “Nanotechnology is a leading-edge, enabling technology that holds the promise of a lasting economic benefit for jobs and investment in the materials, energy and healthcare sectors. EcoSynthetix’s innovative nanotechnology has the potential to impact a wide-array of markets that would benefit from a sustainable alternative to petroleum-based products.”

“This ECO-WIN collaboration involves four professors and eight graduate students at the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology and is a great example of how industry and universities can work together to advance an exciting new area of science to benefit the community,” said Dr. Steven Bloembergen, Executive Vice President, Technology of EcoSynthetix. “Our EcoSphere® technology is already commercial and providing sustainable benefits in three separate markets today. Our team’s primary focus at this stage is near-term product development and product enhancements of carbohydrate-based biopolymers. By working with the Institute of Nanotechnology to deepen our understanding of the basic science, we can identify new future applications that could benefit from our sustainable biobased materials.”

The EcoSphere® technology is being commercially utilized as biobased latex products providing alternatives to petroleum-based binders in the coated paper and paperboard market. [emphasis mine] The goal of this project is to generate a greater understanding of the properties of EcoSphere® biolatex® binders by establishing a knowledge base that could enable tailor-made novel particles with the desired properties for a given application. The project team will be chemically modifying the nanoparticles and then characterizing how the properties of the novel particles are affected by these changes.

I don’t understand what “independent director” means in this context. Is the term meant to suggest that it’s a coincidence Carty is WIN’s executive director and a member of the EcoSynthetix board? Or, does it mean that he’s not employed by the company? If any readers care to clarify the matter, please do leave a comment. In any event, the EcoSynthetix timeline suggests the company has a close relationship with the University of Waterloo as it was founded in 1996 by graduates  (from the company’s About Us History Timeline webpage),

EcosynthetixTimeline

As for the product line which birthed this partnership, there’s a disappointing lack of technical detail about Ecosphere biolatex binders. Here’s the best I can find on the company website (from the Ecosphere Biolatex Binders Performance page),

The smaller particle size characteristic of biolatex binders results in increased binder strength and performance. In coated paper, it provides improved aesthetics; a rich, bright finish; enhanced open structure and excellent printability across all grades.

I wonder if some of this new work will be focused on ways to use CNC (cellulose nanocrytals or NCC, nanocrystalline cellulose) in addition to the company’s previously developed “bio-based nanoparticles”  to enhance the product which, as I highlighted earlier, sells to the “coated paper and paperboard market.” From the CelluForce (the CNC/NCC production plant in Quebec) Applications page,

NCC’s properties and many potential forms enable many uses, including:

  • Biocomposites for bone replacement and tooth repair
  • Pharmaceuticals and drug delivery
  • Additives for foods and cosmetics
  • Improved paper and building products
  • Advanced or “intelligent” packaging
  • High-strength spun fibres and textiles
  • Additives for coatings, paints, lacquers and adhesives
  • Reinforced polymers and innovative bioplastics
  • Advanced reinforced composite materials
  • Recyclable interior and structural components for the transportation industry
  • Aerospace and transportation structures
  • Iridescent and protective films
  • Films for optical switching
  • Pigments and inks
  • Electronic paper printers
  • Innovative coatings and new fillers for papermaking

Since I’m already speculating, I will note I’ve had a couple of requests for information on how to access NCC/CNC from entrepreneurs who’ve not been successful at obtaining the material from the few existing production plants such as CelluForce and the one in the US. It seems only academics can get access.

One last comment about this ‘partnership’, I’d dearly love to know what relationships, if any exist, between the proponents and the NSERC committee which approved the funding.

Interestingly, Carty is the chair for the recently convened expert panel for the Council of Canadian Academies’ The State of Canada’s Science Culture assessment, as per my Dec. 19, 2012 post about the announcement of his appointment. This latest development casts a new light on the panel (my Feb. 22, 2013 post notes my reaction to the expert panel’s membership) and the meaning of science culture in Canada.

Council of Canadian Academies tries to answer question: What is the state of Canada’s science culture?

The Council of Canadian Academies is an organization designed to answer questions about science in Canada. From the Council’s About Us webpage on their website,

The Council is an independent, not-for-profit corporation that supports science-based, expert assessments (studies) to inform public policy development in Canada. The Council began operation in 2005 and consists of a Board of Governers, a Scientific Advisory Committee and Secretariat. The Council draws upon the intellectual capital that lies within its three Member Academies the Royal Society of Canada (RSC); the Canadian Academy of Engineering;  and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

Our mission is to contribute to the shaping of evidence-based public policy that is in the public interest. This is achieved by appointing independent, multidisciplinary panels of expert volunteers. The Council’s work encompasses a broad definition of science, incorporating the natural, social and health sciences as well as engineering and the humanities.

Expert Panels directly address the question and sub-questions referred to them. Panel assessments may also identify: emerging issues, gaps in knowledge, Canadian strengths, and international trends and practices. Upon completion, assessments provide government decision-makers, academia and stakeholders with high-quality information required to develop informed and innovative public policy.

Several months ago, Gary Goodyear, Canada’s Minister of State (Science and Technology), requested on behalf of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation (CSTMC), Natural Resources Canada, and Industry Canada an assessment of science culture in Canada. From the State of Canada’s Science Culture webpage on the Council of Canadian Academies website,

Over the past 30 years, public interest and debate has been steadily growing in Canada and abroad over the need to foster a science culture as part of the national science and technology agenda. In this period, significant government and private investments have contributed to the development of hundreds of individual science culture programs and institutions.

Now more than ever the volume of programs and data support the need for a national examination of issues, such as the performance indicators that best reflect the vitality of Canada’s science culture, and a need to understand where Canada ranks internationally. The expert panel will be asked to consider these and other questions such as what factors influence an interest in science among youth; what are the key components of the informal system that supports science culture; and what strengths and weaknesses exist in the Canadian system.

Assessments of science culture can focus either on science in the general culture, or the culture among scientists. This assessment will focus principally on the former, with additional interest in understanding the underlying connections among entrepreneurship, innovation and science. …

The full assessment process includes a rigorous peer review exercise to ensure the report is objective, balanced and evidence-based. Following the review and approval by the Council’s Board of Governors, the complete report will be made available on the Council’s website in both official languages. …

Question

What is the state of Canada’s science culture?

Sub-questions:

  1. What is the state of knowledge regarding the impacts of having a strong science culture?
  2. What are the indicators of a strong science culture? How does Canada compare with other countries against these indicators? What is the relationship between output measures and major outcome measures?
  3. What factors (e.g., cultural, economic, age, gender) influence interest in science, particularly among youth?
  4. What are the critical components of the informal system that supports science culture (roles of players, activities, tools and programs run by science museums, science centres, academic and not-for-profit organizations and the private sector)? What strengths and weaknesses exist in Canada’s system?
  5. What are the effective practices that support science culture in Canada and in key competitor countries?

Hopefully, the expert panel will have a definition of some kind for “science culture.”

After waiting what seems to be an unusually long period, the Council announced the chair for the  “science culture” expert panel (from the CCA Dec. 19, 2012 news release),

Arthur Carty to Serve as Expert Panel Chair on the State of Canada’s Science Culture

The Council is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Arthur Carty, O.C., as Chair of the Expert Panel on the State of Canada’s Science Culture. In 2011, the Minister of State (Science and Technology) on behalf of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation (CSTMC), Natural Resources Canada, and Industry Canada requested the Council conduct an in-depth, evidence-based assessment on the state of Canada’s science culture.

As Chair of the Council’s Expert Panel, Dr. Carty will work with a multidisciplinary group of experts, to be appointed by the Council, to address the following question: What is the state of Canada’s science culture?

Dr. Carty is currently the Executive Director of the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Waterloo. Dr. Carty also serves as Special Advisor to the President on international science and technology collaboration, and as Research Professor in the Department of Chemistry. Prior to this, Dr. Carty served as Canada’s first National Science Advisor to the Prime Minister and to the Government of Canada from 2004-2007 and as President of the National Research Council Canada from 1994-2004.

You can find out more on Carty’s biography webpage, on the CCA website,

Arthur Carty is the Executive Director of the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Waterloo, Special Advisor to the President on international science and technology collaboration, and Research Professor in the Department of Chemistry

From 2004-2008, Dr. Carty served as Canada’s first National Science Advisor to the Prime Minister and to the Government of Canada. Prior to this appointment, he was President of the National Research Council Canada for 10 years. Before this, he spent 2 years at Memorial University and then 27 years at the University of Waterloo, where he was successively Professor of Chemistry, Director of the Guelph-Waterloo Centre for Graduate Work in Chemistry and Biochemistry, Chair of the Department of Chemistry, and Dean of Research.

….

Carty’s profile page on the Waterloo Institute of Nanotechnology (WIN) website offers the same information but in more detail.

It’s difficult to divine much from the biographical information about Carty as it is very purpose-oriented to impress the reader with Carty’s international and national involvements in the field of science advice and collaboration. Carty may have extensive experience with multi-disciplinary teams and an avid interest in a science culture that includes informal science education and the arts and humanities, unfortunately, it’s not visible on either the CCA or WIN website biographies.

Hopefully,  Carty and the CCA will assemble a diverse expert panel. (Warning: blatant self-promotion ahead) If they are looking for a person of diverse personal and professional interests

  • who has an MA in Creative Writing (nonfiction and fiction) and New Media from De Montfort University in Leicester, UK and
  • a BA (Communication – Honors) from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada and
  • who has built up one of the largest and longest-running independent science blogs in the country thereby contributing to science culture in Canada,
  • neatly combining the social sciences, the humanities, and an informed perspective on science and science culture in Canada in one person,

they may want to contact me at [email protected] I have more details in the CV and can supply references.

Quantum-Nano Centre (QNC) opening Sept. 21, 2012 at the University of Waterloo (Canada)

Gary Thomas’ Sept. 13, 2012 news item for Azonano provides some facts about the new centre at the University of Waterloo,

The University of Waterloo has reported that the Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre (QNC) will be officially opened on September 21, 2012, in the new building at the center of the university campus.

The Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology (WIN) and the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) will share QNC, a 285,000-square-foot facility for future innovation in nanotechnology and quantum information. QNC will provide the equipment and collaborative opportunities to researchers to carry out pioneering experiments, explore new materials and processes and develop advanced technologies.

You can find more details on Azonano or in the fulsome Sept. 11, 2012 University of Waterloo news release by Christian Aagaard,

It’s a curious building for curious people, supported by an entrepreneur driven by curiosity.

The Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre on the main campus of the University of Waterloo is ready for its starring role — a gateway to a future shaped by incredibly small devices, advanced materials and powerful technologies based on the laws of quantum mechanics.

Waterloo (Canada) Institute of Nanotechnology in joint partnership with Soochow University (China)

The Exchange Magazine’s Morning Post website is hosting a June 13, 2012 news item about new funding for a joint partnership between the Waterloo Institute of Nanotechnology (WIN) and Soochow University Nanotechnology (SUN),

Major new research in nanotechnology, a joint initiative between the University of Waterloo and Soochow University in China, has received close to $1 million in funding.

The SUN-WIN Joint Institute of Nanotechnology is a partnership between the two universities. A fund from Suzhou Industrial Park and Soochow University provided ¥6 million (approximately $1 million) in total financing for 12 collaborative projects, each with lead investigators from the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology (WIN) and Soochow University Nanotechnology (SUN).

“The University of Waterloo and Soochow University are delighted to be partners in such cutting edge research,” said Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of Waterloo and Xuilin Zhu, president of Soochow University. “The fact that so many joint projects received critical funding confirms the strength of the collaboration and the significance of the research.”

Waterloo and Soochow signed a partnership agreement in nanotechnology in February [2011].

The funded projects are in key theme areas of nanotechnology such as high-efficiency organic LEDs, thin nanocomposites as materials for lithium-ion batteries, and new nanostructured polymers for biomedical and chemical uses.

So, is all of the funding coming from China? What are the Chinese getting from this deal? Expertise from the Waterloo Institute of Nanotechnology?

Canada-Japan Nanotechnology Workshop at the University of Waterloo

Today (Nov. 21, 2011) and tomorrow (Nov. 22), the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology (WIN) at the University of Waterloo is hosting a nanotechnology workshop celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Canada-Japan Agreement on Cooperation in Science and Technology. The Honourable Gary Goodyear Minister of State (Science and Technology) gave the opening remarks (from the Nov. 21, 2011 news release on the Industry Canada website),

“There are tremendous opportunities for international researchers and businesses to come to Canada and invest in research and development,” said Minister of State Goodyear. “This conference allows us to showcase opportunities in nanotechnology and promote stronger linkages with Canadian researchers and innovators. The relationship we are building will benefit the Canadian and Japanese economies.”

The conference drew a number of high-profile delegates, including His Excellency Kaoru Ishikawa, Ambassador of Japan to Canada and Mr. Yasuyoshi Kakita, Director of the Generic Research and Research Platform Division of Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

WIN’s workshop webpage offers more details about the Canada-Japan relationship and our mutual interest in nanotechnology,

Nanotechnology is identified in both countries as a priority area by the Expert Advisory Group (EAG) on Canada-Japan S&T Cooperation. Four major nanotechnology collaborations were recently identified by the Embassies of Japan and Canada for their on-going execution of annual workshops, proven mobility and exchange programs, research funding and number of projects initiated. These are: (in order of MOU signing).

– National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT) & National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) – 2006
– NanoQuebec & Nagano Techno Foundation – 2009
– Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology (WIN) & National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) – 2010
– McGill University & RIKEN – 2010

The Canada-Japan nanotechnology workshop is designed to bring Canadian and Japanese stakeholders together to highlight their success at a national level and for individual researcher teams to advance their collaborative projects. Scientists including Canadian Research Chairs in the field of nanotechnology, government representatives and administrators from leading universities and nanotechnology organizations will be on hand to discuss the future of nanotechnology and recommend paths ahead.

By coming together we will help define a nanotechnology road map for Canada and Japan cooperation that will identify future areas for research funding, commercialization and trade for our respective Governments and Embassies. [emphasis mine]

I’m not sure how they’re going to be able to define a nanotechnology road map for cooperation with Japan when there isn’t any kind of nanotechnology roadmap for Canada. You can check that out for yourself here.

I hope there will be more news from the workshop as it progresses.