Collaboration with metal industry earns McGillians top research grant


McGill Metals Processing Centre awarded $200,000 Leo Derikx award

The McGill Metals Processing Centre (MMPC) was recognized last night for its special and long lasting contribution to Canadian industrial innovation. Director Roderick Guthrie and Research Manager Mihaiela Isac received the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Leo Derikx Award at a ceremony in Montreal.

“I’ve been here for 40 years, and started working with industry long before it was the thing to do, so it’s very appropriate that the government would see fit to confer this award to the MMPC,” Dr. Guthrie said.

The Leo Derikx Award is given in recognition of “an established innovative model of long-standing university-industry partnership in pre-competitive R&D that has improved the general well-being of an industry,” and is one of four Synergy Awards that NSERC confers to universities and industry partners.

“The MMPC’s ability to attract world class collaboration with industry is in itself proof of the value of the research led by Drs. Guthrie and Isac,” said Dr. Rima Rozen, Interim Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations). “I am thrilled that the Government of Canada has chosen to confirm the special role this of centre through this award.”

“Investing in science, technology and innovation spurs Canada’s competitiveness and enhances our leadership on the world stage,” said Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement. “Our government is proud to support the winners of the Synergy Awards as they drive our economy forward and bring the best of Canadian innovation to the world.” 

Dr. Suzanne Fortier, President of NSERC said, "The strategic investments that NSERC has made over the years have led to numerous successful collaborations such as the one we are recognizing today. The Synergy Awards highlight partnerships that bring together the best researchers from Canadian universities and the leading innovators from the private sector, resulting in the transfer of tangible research results to those who can translate them into economic and social benefits for Canadians."

Working with over 20 global industry leaders, the MMPC has driven innovation in this field for a number of decades and has become the go-to facility for international metal processing companies looking to improve the quality of their products. Companies such as Hatch, Novelis, Heraeus Electro-Nite, Sumitomo Metals Industries, and Rio Tinto collaborate with researchers at the MMPC’s state-of-the-art facilities. They focus on advancing the sustainable processing, production and characterization of advanced materials used by the ferrous and light metals industries.

“One of the big achievements was developing a sensor for liquid metals that could measure metal quality. That was a 20-year effort – five years to get it right for aluminum, and then 15 making it work for liquid steel,” Dr Guthrie said. “We now have equipment in aluminum smelters around the world evaluating the quality of their aluminum, which is extremely important for products like aluminum cans – if there is even a microscopic imperfection, it can split the wall during can-making operations. So, it was critical for Alcan to get that inclusion-sensor working. The same story goes for steel-making – the Japanese are the leaders in steel-making, and we’ve had an excellent collaboration with Sumitomo and Heraeus in developing this technique for liquid steel.”

The MMPC still has its sights set firmly on the future. The Centre possesses one of the two pilot-scale horizontal single belt casters in the world, with a view to revolutionizing the casting of sheet metal over the next decade. “We can thank Dr Isac for all her efforts in designing the continuous casting facility at McGill. On this innovative pilot-scale equipment, we are working on the fundamentals of how to cast one-inch thick hot steel sheet at a rate of one metre a second – sixty times faster than current operations – so that’s our next big push,” Dr Guthrie said.

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William Raillant-Clark
Media Relations, McGill
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