2021 MSSI Ideas Fund Recipients

The McGill Sustainability Systems Initiative has funded five new projects through the 2021 Ideas Fund

Each year, the MSSI Ideas Fund provides seed funding to McGill researchers pursuing bold projects and novel ideas in sustainability research. This year's fund provided $200 000 to projects exploring new processes — such as green ammonia production and post-harvest technologies for seaweed cultivation — and new materials — from faster-charging Lithium-ion batteries, to tougher biodegradable plastics, and unraveling the mysteries of promising solar energy materials. Read more about this year’s projects below.

The next Ideas Fund is scheduled for Fall 2021. The MSSI also offers support to McGill researchers through the Innovation Fund and the SSH-Ideas Fund, more information is available on the MSSI website.

Tough Biodegradable Protein Nanofibers as Plasticizers for Sustainable Commodity Bioplastics

Noémie-Manuelle Dorval Courchesne, Milan Maric, and Richard Leask (Department of Chemical Engineering)

This project aims to improve the properties of existing biodegradable bioplastics by incorporating bacterial protein nanofibers into the blends. These nanofibers are some of the stiffest known biological materials — they have the potential to toughen polymers and enhance their biodegradability. With low-cost and bio-sourced starting materials, the resulting bioplastics will contribute to growing a sustainable economy.

A Unified Approach Towards Understanding Defect Tolerant Materials for Solar Energy Harvesting

Patanjali Kambhampati (Department of Chemistry), David Cooke (Department of Chemistry), Bradley Siwick (Departments of Chemistry and Physics)

Sustainability is intimately connected to our energy future, one which requires new materials for harvesting energy as well as deploying energy in devices. The most recent material that is setting the global photovoltaic world on fire is the semiconductor perovskite, which has a unique and mysterious defect tolerance to its electronic properties. This project will exploit the world-leading expertise of three groups to unravel the mysteries of how these materials function so well, and how they can inform design principles for the future.

Mechanochemical Synthesis of Disordered-rocksalt Anodes for Ultrafast-charging Lithium-ion Batteries

Jinhyuk Lee and Raynald Gauvin (Department of Mining and Materials Engineering)

The slow rechargeability of Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) in electric vehicles (EVs) has been a critical bottleneck for EVs' adoption. The recent discovery of the disordered-rocksalt anode opened the possibility of ultrafast LIB-recharging in a few minutes. However, the material could be synthesized only through expensive multi-step methods involving toxic chemicals. This project uses mechanochemistry for the green, cost-effective, single-step synthesis of novel disordered-rocksalt anodes, revolutionizing the LIBs in EVs for a greener and more sustainable society.

Design of Innovative Clean Technologies for Sustainable Use of Marine Biomass

Benjamin Simpson and Yi Zhang (Department of Food Science)

Seaweed cultivation is developing rapidly; however, sustainable post-harvesting processing remains a major technological challenge. This project is based on the circular economy principle and aims to design a green process for seaweed transformation with minimal chemical use, low energy costs, zero wastes, improving sustainable development goals for social well-being and environmental health.

Green Ammonia Production Using Solar-plasma Catalysis

Mélanie Tétreault-Friend (Department of Mechanical Engineering), Sylvain Coulombe (Department of Chemical Engineering), Jeffrey Bergthorson (Department of Mechanical Engineering)

Standard methods for ammonia production use substantial amounts of fossil fuel generated energy. The goal of this project is to develop a novel and efficient green ammonia production method using solar-plasma catalysis. Solar-thermo-catalysis and plasma-catalysis are both promising candidates with complementary advantages and disadvantages. This exploratory project will combine — for the first time — the strengths of the solar- and plasma-catalysis processes in a synergetic way using an existing plasma-catalysis reactor and solar thermal facility.

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