Creating Sustainable Materials for the Future

Creating Sustainable Materials


The Creating Sustainable Materials for the Future Research Theme is a transdisciplinary research program that addresses the design, development, evaluation, and use of sustainable materials. The group’s activities are centered around the following mutually reinforcing domains, with a focus on energy:

  1. Development of de novo function-driven materials and molecules that meet pressing societal needs [benign by design]
  2. Identification, characterization and assessment of human and ecosystem health risks associated with new materials and molecules during their design and synthesis [21st century risk assessment]
  3. Informing government/business policy that promotes responsible stakeholder while catalysing commercialization and scaling of sustainable materials [stakeholder-driven]

The theme brings together scholars, students, and stakeholders across the natural, engineering, medical and social sciences to enable dialogue and networking so that a more comprehensive and holistic approach to the development and use of emerging functional materials and molecules can be pursued.

Theme co-Leads

Nil Basu

Natural Resource Sciences

Audrey Moores


George Demopoulos

Materials Engineering


Research Projects

Quantum Dot Nanocrystals for LCD Screens

The QD project is developing a holistic approach towards toxicity and ecotoxicity-free nanomaterials with quantum dot properties used in electronic applications, such as LCD televisions.

QDs are used as semiconductors in LCD screens. Unfortunately, some of the elements in QDs, such as cadmium can be toxic, even at low concentrations. This presents a potential hazard both during the product’s manufacturing and at end of its life. In the QD project, chemists and toxicologists collaborate to develop more benign QDs by evolving greener synthesis methods, and investigate their release and subsequent fate and impacts in the aquatic environment; The project also tackles greener synthesis methods, such as solvent-free processes. Collaborators: Nil Basu, Audrey Moores, Tomislav Friscic, Saji George, Subhasis Ghoshal, Maureen McKeague, Nik Provatas.

  • Cadmium-Containing Quantum Dots Used in Electronic Displays: Implications for Toxicity and Environmental Transformations. 2021. In review.

Sustainable Perovskites for Photovoltaics

Photovoltaics refers to the conversion of light into electricity at the atomic level. Perovskites are a class of light-harvesting compounds that have been attracting attention as a promising new generation photovoltaic technology thanks to their record efficiency. However much remains unresolved, such as issues of sustainable and non-toxic material use and fabrication and stability. This project explores the development of next generation photovoltaic perovskite solar cell materials that do not only deliver stable performance but also made with non-toxic chemicals and low-cost processes. Collaborators: George Demopoulos, Peter Grutter, Tomislav Friscic, Audrey Moores, Dima Perepichka, Nil Basu.

  • Effect of the Electron Transport Layer on the Photovoltaic Properties of Hybrid Organic Inorganic Perovskites Solar Cells: Cross-Section of Optics, Morphology, Composition and Quality. ECS Meeting Abstracts, 2020. See paper
  • Alternatives assessment of perovskite solar cell materials and their methods of fabrication. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 2020. See paper
  • Controlling Structural and Energetic Disorder in High-Mobility Polymer Semiconductors via Doping with Nitroaromatics. Chemistry of Materials, 2021. See paper

Titanium Dioxide in Functional Materials

TiO2 nanomaterials are commonly incorporated into paints and papers. As the paint ages or paper is deposited into the waste system, some TiO2 particles may slough off and end up in the environment, particularly in waters. This project works with stakeholders from Environment and Climate Change Canada and the paint industry to increase our understanding of the chemistry, fate and potential toxicity of engineered nanomaterials released from paint and paper materials into aquatic environments. Collaborators: Subhasis Ghoshal, Nil Basu, Nathalie Tufenkji, Saji George.

  • Characterizing the effects of titanium dioxide and silver nanoparticles released from painted surfaces due to weathering on zebrafish (Danio rerio). Nanotoxicology, 2021. See paper

Responsible Replacements for Endocrine-disrupting Chemicals

EDCs such as BPA and phthalates are common constituents of everyday items such as plastic bottles, flame retardants, toys and cosmetics. The molecules are slow to break down and have been shown to cause adverse health effects in humans and animals. This MSSI-affiliated project is generating new information on dietary exposure to EDCs via foods, drinking water, and breast milk, as well as on their health effects. Collaborators: Barbara Hales, Bernard Robaire, Jaye Ellis, Viviane Yargeau, Jonathan Chevrier, Stephane Bayen, Steve Maguire.

  • Effects of organophosphate ester flame retardants on endochondral ossification in ex vivo murine limb bud cultures. Toxicological Sciences, 2019. View open access paper
Sustainability ‘Checklist’ for Materials Research

Despite great interest in engaging in research activities that yield sustainable materials, there remains a simple question of “how do we do it”? This project outlines a series of checklists that aim to aid researchers and their students in transitioning from “think” to “discuss” to “do.” Collaborators: Nil Basu, Jaye Ellis, Sidney Omelon, George Demopoulos, Audrey Moores.


Other Theme-related Publications

Solvent-Free Mechanochemical Synthesis of Ultrasmall Nickel Phosphide Nanoparticles and Their Application as a Catalyst for the Hydrogen Evolution Reaction (HER). ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, 2020. See paper

Green Toxicology: Connecting Green Chemistry and Modern Toxicology. Chemical Research in Toxicology, 2020. See paper

Drivers of and Obstacles to the Adoption of Toxicogenomics for Chemical Risk Assessment: Insights from Social Science Perspectives. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2020. See open access paper

Highly conductive NMP-free carbon-coated nano-lithium titanate/carbon composite electrodes via SBR-assisted electrophoretic deposition. Electrochimica Acta, 2019. See paper

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