Some interesting results from my colleague’s research group. I add some further context below the link…
Researchers at Waterloo Engineering have created a powder that could be used to reduce greenhouse gases at factories and power plants that burn fossil fuels. The advanced carbon powder, developed using a novel process in the lab of chemical engineering professor Zhongwei Chen, could filter and remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from emissions with almost twice the efficiency of conventional materials.
Source: New powder could reduce greenhouse gas emissions | Engineering | University of Waterloo
My Context/Analysis: Some interesting work in materials science and chemistry. From the published paper (sorry it’s behind a paywall, but I can read it through the university’s subscription), I can see that the amount of CO2 captured is about 1.6 mmole of CO2 per gram of powder, or about 70 mg/g, at flue gas conditions. As the paper points out, this is pretty good for CO2 adsorption, but it is not a miracle cure for all of our problems. To put it in context, in 2016 the U.S. electricity sector emitted something like 1,800,000,000,000 kg of CO2 (from the EPA website). So, if the powder can capture 70 mg per g it would take about 26,000,000,000,000 kg of powder for one year of capture. That’s a lot of powder!! And that’s only for one sector in the U.S. alone (representing about 28% of U.S. CO2 emissions). So, it’s important to continue doing research, find new things and look at potential applications in a wide range of fields. But carbon emissions and climate change is a huge problem and there aren’t any easy answers. Reducing CO2 emissions will generally be better than trying to capture them afterwards, like the three R’s hierarchy (reduce, reuse, recycle).
A story at the link below about a company started by one of our nanotechnology engineering graduates (and a Masters in Mechanical Engineering, according to his LinkedIn page). The technology is based on SPR, or Surface Plasmon Resonance, and interesting material property that appears at the nanoscale. Some of my research work is based on this phenomenon, and this seems like a nice piece of equipment.
Kitchener startup’s ‘life extending’ technology helps researchers study disease and develop new medicines
KITCHENER — Ryan Denomme pursues cutting edge science from inside an old factory building where his grandmother used to work.
Denomme is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Nicoya Lifesciences, which recently launched the second version of its desktop device that measures interactions between some of the most important building blocks in the human body — proteins.
Source: Life extending technology | TheRecord.com
I was visiting my colleagues in the Engineering Ideas Clinic the other day, to discuss a design-fabricate-test project for a heat exchanger that we’re working on for Chemical Engineering students. The basic concept for the Ideas Clinic is that students can do hands-on activities requiring engineering design, some fabrication and assembly, and some performance testing, part of our experiential learning philosophy. A bunch of activities have been developed over the past few years, and many more are in development to take advantage of new space available in our Engineering 7 building, opening soon.
One activity they previewed for me was the building of a desktop Scanning Tunneling Microscope for imaging surfaces at the atomic scale. The video below shows the basic principle of an STM. Once it’s finalized, this will be an activity for our Nanotechnology Engineering students, and it’s amazing that something like this can be built by students for a couple of hundred dollars. I look forward to seeing it in action.
An interesting article about some co-op student efforts in one of our research labs. I learned about Spatial Atomic Layer Deposition, which is an interesting application of nanoscience and materials engineering.
With the help of seven University of Waterloo co-op students, Canada’s first Spatial Atomic Layer Deposition (SALD) system is up and running. At the celebratory ribbon cutting on May 10, 2018, project leader Professor Kevin Musselman said he couldn’t have done it without the co-op students who helped design and build the machine. “I was sitting at my desk the whole time. I don’t think I ever lifted a finger so it was entirely built by the students,” laughs Musselman.
Source: Co-op students build first-of-its-kind machine in Canada | Engineering | University of Waterloo
There is some impression out there that “nanotechnology” (and our Nanotechnology Engineering program) is all very research-oriented, with no practical applications or career prospects yet. Graduates can only look forward to doing lab research or a PhD degree. Those are certainly potential paths, but not the only ones by any means.
Nanotechnology has been around for about 30 years (see it’s history). In many ways, it’s just a specialized way of approaching Materials Science/Engineering, and there are already over 1,500 products on the market that incorporate nanotechnology. Making products requires more than just lab research, and one of the reasons we launched our Nanotechnology Engineering program was in response to industry needs for people with this expertise.
It also seems that the nanotechnology area is one where there is a lot of room for innovation and entrepreneurship by our undergraduate students. Here are a few recent examples (mainly based on senior design projects) that have led to start-up companies:
It’s interesting to see what creative new ways that nanotechnology can be used to make new products or improve existing ones. In my own research lab we are working with companies to develop novel test methods, based on nanotechnology, for detection of water contamination, and this is on the verge of commercialization. Some day soon I’ll finish a post on that topic.
So for a high school student thinking about different career paths, don’t exclude Nanotechnology Engineering if you’re interested in materials and commercial product development. It’s not all theory, lab work, and graduate research.
Following up on a previous post about this Nanotechnology Engineering student group, this is apparently the first time Canadian undergraduate students have won a James Dyson Award. Congratulations!
University of Waterloo sun safety startup wins a Dyson award.
Sunscreen warning markers earn top grades at Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp.
Here is an interesting story about some of our Nanotechnology Engineering students, who used their creativity and expertise in materials science to develop a business idea for a compound that warns you when you need to re-apply sunscreen. They won a $15,000 prize to help carry on building their start-up company.
There was another story a while ago about nanotechnology engineering graduates who were developing an improved de-icer compound for use in frost removal or control. Just a couple of examples of what nanotechnology engineering students do in the area of entrepreneurship.