Vancouver Convention Centre, site of this year’s AAAS conference.
Canadian Innovation Excellence Highlighted at International Science Conference
Member of Parliament Wai Young, on behalf of the Minister of International Trade Ed Fast, this month highlighted Canada’s world-class innovation in scientific research and development when she opened the Canada Pavilion at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in Vancouver.
“By connecting Canadian researchers with their international peers, we are helping to produce a more skilled workforce, fostering closer ties between Canadian and international education institutions, and helping to expand the delivery of Canadian knowledge and expertise around the world – all key drivers of the economy of tomorrow,” said Minister Fast. “Our government’s job-creating science and technology strategy is aimed at attracting and retaining the world’s brightest researchers, increasing investments in research and development, and bringing promising new scientific discoveries to market.”
This year’s AAAS conference marks the first time Canada has hosted the event in 30 years. The event attracted researchers, executives, entrepreneurs, and policy-makers from more than 50 countries, including officials from the world’s top 200 universities, colleges, and research institutes. Canada’s participation in the conference was greater than ever, with more than 140 Canadians participating as speakers and lecturers.
“By selecting Vancouver as the setting for the world’s largest general scientific conference, the AAAS sought to celebrate multinational collaboration as a critical ingredient for innovation, and to recognize that knowledge flows across borders,” said AAAS Chief Executive Officer Alan Leshner.
Also at this year’s AAAS conference, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada and over 30 partners, including federal departments and agencies, academia, non-profit organizations and industry, showed how Canada is contributing to solutions to complex global issues. Canada has science and technology agreements with Brazil, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Israel, and Japan.
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Powering the Caffeine Needs of Tomorrow’s Air Travelers
It looked, smelled and tasted like ordinary coffee, but the way it was brewed was anything but ordinary. In a recent demonstration, the National Research Council Canada (NRC) and Boeing Commercial Airplanes made a pot of coffee with hydrogen power, showing that hydrogen fuel cells could be used to provide electricity on board aircraft.
The occasion, which occurred at the British Columbia Institute of Technology Aerospace Technology Campus in Richmond, BC, demonstrated the feasibility of safely using fuel cells to help increase electrification in the aerospace sector. A fuel cell produces zero emissions and, with a fuel-to-power conversion efficiency of around 60 percent, could be more efficient at generating electricity than an aircraft’s gas turbine generator.
Boeing 737 galley, which was energized completely by the fuel cell system.
“Boeing feels it’s important to ensure that air travel is sustainable in the long term,” said NRC researcher Mark Rossetto. “The high cost of fuel as well as the need to reduce emissions means that anything the industry can do to improve energy efficiency is a good thing.”
The project began in August 2010, when Boeing asked the NRC Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation to help develop a system to operate a fuel cell power generator on an airplane.
Drawing on NRC expertise, Mr. Rossetto’s team designed a fuel cell and hydrogen storage system that could fit into the cargo hold of an airplane while providing safe and reliable auxiliary power to onboard devices. With the help of several Canadian suppliers, the researchers integrated the system into an electrical power generator for the galley of an out-of-service Boeing 737-200. In the process, they overcame various airplane limitations, including temperature, weight, volume, and access.
“We’re interested in using fuel cells to power the galley because they potentially allow us to take power loads off of airplane engines using a renewable clean energy source,” said Joe Breit, Principal Investigator for Fuel Cell Technology at Boeing. “What’s more, he added, the galley consumes “a fairly significant portion of the overall airplane electrical load.”
Having demonstrated this proof-of-concept, the next step is to “install and operate a fuel cell system on board a flying aircraft,” said Rossetto, who added that system refinements and more rigorous testing will be required for future flight readiness.
The partners believe it will be several years before the first hydrogen fuel cells appear on commercial aircraft. At first, they will likely be used only for non-critical applications such as powering the aircraft’s galley and entertainment systems.
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At the AAAS conference in Vancouver this month, U of A students Joel Pumple (left) and Alec Casey show off displays depicting the effects of thawing permafrost on buildings and a graphic representation of sea ice melting.
Cold Gets a Warm Welcome at AAAS Conference
Students and staff from the University of Alberta’s Canadian Circumpolar Institute received anything but a chilly reception in Vancouver at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference. Visitors to the conference’s Family Fun Days got a fascinating glimpse into University of Alberta (U of A) research being conducted in both polar regions.
An interactive screen linked visitors to researchers and projects, providing information, image, and videos of their work. One display showed the effects of thawing permafrost on buildings and structures in the North. Another showed a graphic representation of sea ice melting over the last 50 years. U of A grad student Alec Casey and undergrad Joel Pumple provided context and explanation.
Anita Dey-Nuttall, Associate Director of Research Advancement for the Canadian Circumpolar Institute, says the presentation, organized and arranged in co-operation with Telus World of Science, was “an outcome of both [U of A] faculty members and the Circumpolar Students’ Association volunteering to communicate to the general public the science being done in the polar regions. Our research stories were brought alive on the interactive screen by a program created and developed by an exceptionally talented undergraduate student volunteer, Tobias Tan, who is also a member of the CSA executive”.
David Hik, Acting Director of the Canadian Circumpolar Institute, took part in a five-person panel on interdisciplinary research. Mr. Hik’s presentation focused on advances made during the International Polar Year and the way they are shaping the planning of long-term polar research.
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Dr. Ta-Ya Chu poses beside an organic solar cell on display at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa. The solar cell was developed by an NRC team led by Dr. Ye Tao.
Record-Breaking Organic Solar Cells One Step Closer to Commercialization
National Research Council Canada (NRC) researchers have produced the world’s most efficient “inverted” organic photovoltaic (OPV) solar cells, outperforming a previous record established just a few months ago. Their feat could help to accelerate the adoption of OPV devices in novel solar power applications.
Using a new polymer developed by Dr. Jianping Lu in collaboration with Laval University, NRC has developed a series of increasingly efficient organic solar cells. In November 2011, the team’s inverted OPV cells were officially certified by an independent US certification lab at a power conversion efficiency of 7.1 percent, which means they convert 7.1 percent of incoming solar light into electricity.
Previously, in September 2011, the Belgian firm Imec had set the then record of 6.9 percent power conversion efficiency on an inverted OPV cell with an aperture area measuring 0.08 cm2. Besides being more efficient, NRC’s 1.0 cm2 OPV cells are 12 times larger. “The larger their active area, the closer they are to manufacturing reality,” said NRC’s Dr. Ta-Ya Chu.
Inverted OPV cells – so called because the positions of their anode and cathode are reversed – are usually less efficient at converting light into electricity than conventional OPV cells, but they have the optimum structure for roll-to-roll mass production. In addition, an inverted OPV cell is more stable and less prone to environmental degradation than a conventional OPV cell.
NRC began working on organic photovoltaic devices in 2005. Three years later, a research consortium – consisting of NRC, Laval University, St-Jean Photochemicals, and US firm Konarka Inc. – received funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada, a not-for-profit foundation created by the Government of Canada. “When we started this project, the average efficiency of OPVs was around 3 percent, but we more than doubled their performance within a few years,” said Dr. Lu.
Dr. Chu has credited the high performance of NRC’s OPV devices to several scientific advances, including new materials, a new device fabrication process, as well as interdisciplinary teamwork between chemists and physicists with theoretical and experimental expertise.
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