MecE Professor one of five engineering researchers earn a combined $2.5 million-plus from NSERC for research

(Edmonton) On February 15, the federal Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan announced funding grants to 94 Canadian research projects in excess of $50 million, through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). Six University of Alberta researchers, five of them from the Faculty of Engineering and one from the Faculty of Agriculture, Life & Environmental Sciences, were among the grant recipients.

“We are working on devices for quantum computing and quantum information networks,” said Ray DeCorby, of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering—one of the grant recipients. Some applications of the technology his team is working on will be in general sensing and information systems. “And there is a lot of evidence that quantum technologies will be part of the next wave of information technologies,” he said.

“The project is expensive in terms of conducting research, as we need to build devices in the nanoFAB,” he said. “The award is critical to fund the project.” DeCorby will use the NSERC grant money to attract and keep highly qualified graduate students and post-doctoral researchers, build devices in the nanoFAB facility and improve lab equipment.

Roger Zemp of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering was equally happy with his team’s NSERC grant result. “We’re excited because the funding will enable us to continue to do the work we’ve been doing related to MEMS, microelectromechanical systems,” he said. “We have developed tiny membranes capable of receiving and transmitting ultrasounds. We are using these for completely new applications.” These applications might include virtual reality type displays, a remote sensing method, LIDAR and fast-focusing camera systems.

“A lot of the award money will be invested in people and a lot will go towards supplies at the U of A nanoFAB facility, and equipment,” he said. “There is potential to commercialize new products and create jobs in Canada.”

That fits with NSERC’s Strategic Partnership Grants, the goal of which is to “build strong connections between Canada's brain trust, industry and government sectors,” said Bettina Hamelin, NSERC’s VP Research Partnerships. “These partnerships tackle significant research that strengthens public policy while also meeting industrial needs.”

The University of Alberta engineering researchers whose projects together net $2,582,467 are:

Robert Hayes, chemical and materials, was awarded $434,000 toward his research in the development of advanced particulate filters for automotive applications.

Sina Ghaemi, mechanical engineering, was awarded $417,000 toward his research in increasing the endurance of autonomous underwater vehicles using polymeric coating technology for Arctic seabed exploration and monitoring.

Ray DeCorby, electrical and computer engineering, earned $534,000 toward his research on an integrated platform for quantum networks.

Qingxia (Chad) Lui, chemical and materials, garnered $445,800 toward his research in nano-reactive oily bubbles for enhancing fine particle flotation by agglomeration.

Roger Zemp, electrical and computer engineering, earned $751,667—the top NSERC prize awarded to research at the U of A—for his fast MEMS focusing systems.


ANSWER THE CHALLENGE
The NSERC-funded projects address challenges in the areas of environment and agriculture, information and communications technologies, natural resources and energy, and advanced manufacturing.