Innovation Fund

The MSSI Innovation Fund supports the acceleration of innovations or processes that will have positive impacts on sustainability challenges.

2021

Developing a near real-time sensor network for urban air pollution using street-level images and audio data combined with deep learning models

Air pollution and noise are important public health issues in urban environments. This project will develop and test a new prototype device capable of estimating near real-time levels of noise and urban air pollution using deep learning models combined with images and audio data (i.e. city sounds). Ultimately, we hope to develop a new low-cost method of estimating high-resolution population exposures to environmental pollutants. Lead researcher: Scott Weichenthal

Cellulose-waste derived material for targeted removal of microplastics and nanoplastics from water

This project uses cellulose-based wastes to fabricate materials that can be used to improve water treatment performance in a sustainable manner. The waste cellulose material can be recovered from agricultural and paper industries. The goal is to strategically modify the cellulose-based wastes so as to optimize the capture of microplastic and nanoplastic contaminants, as well as phosphorus, that are present in wastewaters. Lead researcher: Nathalie Tufenkji

2020

Plant-based pigments from cellulose nanocrystals for color cosmetics and organic seed coatings

This project will develop a new class of vibrant, naturally sourced pigments based on algal and plant-derived dyes, combined with cellulose nanocrystals (CNC). We establish how “molecular mixing” of botanical dyes on the surface of CNC yields a gamut of hues, quantify color stability and demonstrate applications for Natural color cosmetics and seed coatings for organic farming. Lead researcher: Mark Andrews.

Supercritical aluminum-water (SAW) reactor for on-demand hydrogen production

Building on previous success, where aluminum was reacted with supercritical water to produce heat and hydrogen, this project focuses on the design of an industry-relevant supercritical aluminum-water reactor capable of delivering a continuous stream of hot hydrogen and steam to an engine. Lead researcher: Jeffrey Bergthorson.

Including Persons with Disabilities in Multilateral Climate Governance

As the world moves forward with measures to tackle the climate crisis and adapt to the impacts of climate change, it is critical that these efforts include persons with disabilities. This project is establishing a working group of disabled persons organizations and their allies that want to collaborate on disability-inclusive climate action and justice. Through collaborative research, capacity-building, and advocacy, this working group will help ensure that the rights and perspectives of persons with disabilities are meaningfully included in the climate justice movement and in the adoption of climate policies and initiatives. Lead researcher: Sébastien Jodoin.

Prototype reactor for the Power-to-Gas (methane) process

The Power-to-Gas (P2G) process is a promising technology in which renewable electricity is converted into chemical energy (methane) and stored in the natural gas grid. The main challenges are the catalytic conversion of H2 and captured CO2 into CH4. This project will build prototype reactors (catalytic heat exchanger design with alternate reactive and non-reactive channels) and evaluate their performance in terms of CO2 conversion, long-term stability as well as conduct a techno-economic and life-cycle-analysis. Goal: Canada’s first P2G process! Lead researcher: Jan Kopyscinski.

Deconstructing to Reconstruct – A Sustainable Valorization of Lignin to Pharmaceuticals

To maximize value from biomass, the value of lignin must be increased. Since more than 90% of current pharmaceuticals are produced from petroleum, large growth opportunities for lignin-derived building blocks exist in this sector. This research aims to capitalize upon recent advances in lignin depolymerization technologies to create a value chain that affords the chemotherapeutic podophyllotoxin. By valorizing lignin into pharmaceuticals, we hope to create an economic incentive for increased biomass utilization, and motivate additional engagement from pharmaceutical companies interested in developing sustainable manufacturing practices from renewable feedstocks. Lead researcher: Jean-Philip Lumb.

Assessing the environmental impact of urban micro-mobility services

The influx of micromobility services, such as dockless scooter-share and e-bikes, in many cities are contributing to a substantial change in urban transportation. The rapid arrival of these services, however, has left little time for city regulators and citizens to assess the environmental impact of these services and compare them to existing transportation options. In this project we will develop and widely disseminate a survey to both users and non-users of micromobility services across Canada. Given the results of this survey, and vehicle emission data, we will calculate the actual environmental (GHG) impact of these new services on urban centres across Canada. Lead researcher: Grant McKenzie.

2019

Greener synthetic approaches to biologically active oligonucleotides

Current methods of DNA and RNA chemical synthesis are challenged by problems of cost, scale, and environmental impact associated with extensive use of solvents that subsequently become chemical waste. To overcome this problem, a new method that utilizes milling/grinding technology is being developed by the Damha‐Friscic research groups, opening a path to eliminate or significantly reduce solvent consumption. Lead researcher: Masad Damha.

•  Mechanochemical Synthesis of Short DNA Fragments. Chemistry: A European Journal, 2020. See publication

Building Resilience in Fragile Ecosystems: Innovative cellulose hydrogels for water and fertilizer savings in dryland agriculture

Hydrogels derived from forestry waste will be engineered for the slow release of NPK fertilizers by crops. In combination with new drip irrigation technology, precision amounts of water and nutrients will be delivered to the rhizosphere to meet crop requirements. Sustainability benefits include: improved water efficiency, reduced fertilizer use and greenhouse gas emissions, and reuse of waste biomass to produce bio-degradable hydrogels. Lead researcher: Chandra Madramootoo.

2018

Solvent-free enzymatic depolymerization of poly(ethylene terephthalate

Plastic contamination is a major environmental problem. Poly(ethylene)terephthalate (PET) is one of the most widely used plastics with 30M tons produced globally in 2015. This project will explore a novel, non-conventional method for the degradation of PET. Unlike current degradation processes, our method is clean and does not restrict to downcycling. Lead researcher: Karine Auclair.

Mechanoenzymatic transformations in the absence of bulk water - a more natural way of using enzymes. Chembiochem: A European Journal of Chemical Biology, 2019. See publication

Better plastic recycling with enzymes. McGill Faculty of Science News, 2018. Read article.

Novel plasma technology for renewable ammonia synthesis

Ammonia (NH3) is one of the most important chemicals produced today. It is produced at large scale using the energy-intensive Haber-Bosch (H-B) process, and used in the synthesis of fertilizers and virtually all synthetic nitrogen-containing chemicals. The annual production of NH3 is larger than 160 million tons, with associated CO2 emissions exceeding 300 million tons, and energy requirements accounting for ~2% of the world’s energy consumption. This project proposes plasma technology that bears the potential to displace the energy-intensive and polluting H-B process by using electricity from renewables as the only energy source. Lead researcher: Sylvain Coulombe.

Sustainable Green Plasticizers

Plasticizers are added to the majority of consumer plastics to improve their flexibility and processing behavior. During the last decade, the most common plasticizers, known as phthalates and which are produced in the millions of tons annually, have been shown to have adverse health effects. Moreover, they are made from fossil fuels and are ubiquitous environmental contaminants. In this work, we will be performing large scale production run of our replacement sustainable green plasticizer as a validation towards commercialization. Lead researcher: Richard Leask.

Design of advanced Na-ion batteries

Na-Fe-Mn-O materials are promising cathodes for a 'greener' battery than the current Li-ion batteries. However, there are many challenges and a number of contradictory reports in the literature. In this project, techniques were developed in order to systematically screen the entire pseudo-ternary system (320 to date). This has proved very enlightening as both a screening method to find the best battery material but also to explain the contradictions in the literature. This will help develop batteries with a lower environmental impact. Lead researcher: Eric McCalla.

Development of High-Throughput Methods for Sodium-Ion Battery Cathodes. ACS Combinatorial Science, 2020. See publication

Greener alternative to lithium-ion batteries. McFill Faculty of Science News, 2018. Read article

Closing the Phosphorus Loop through Phosphate Rock Production from Municipal Sludge

If you live in a large city, every time you flush, you send non-renewable nutrients to a wastewater treatment plant where they are locked up to prevent algal growth and eutrophication. M. Eng Candidate Ms. Bluteau investigated if the locked up phosphate – as iron phosphate - could be unlocked and recovered as a useful fertilizer in the form of poorly crystalline calcium phosphate. She created and operated a lab-scale continuous process to demonstrate that this is possible, and requires optimization. Lead researcher: Sidney Omelon.

• Research Spotlight - MSSI Innovation Fund. Read article

• Le phosphate des eaux usées utilisé pour produire de l’engrais. La Terre, 2019. Read article

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