|Biofuels research began at U of S nearly 90 years ago. Here chemistry head R.D. MacLaurin operates a car on gas derived from straw. Photo: U of S Archives|
A Century of Innovation on Campus
New Natural Resources
As technology evolves, U of S researchers look for new energy sources and raw materials—as well as examining the footprints of past practices on the environment.
Then and Now: Bio-fuels
1980s: Mike Ingledew develops high-gravity fermentation (VHGF), which produces much higher levels of alcohol with existing equipment. The process is now standard for brewers and ethanol producers worldwide.
2007: Ajay Dalai works with fuels based on canola and other biological sources to produce fuel additives to increase engine life while increasing fuel efficiency. Efforts with catalysts are yielding efficient ways to produce clean-burning hydrogen, and gasification research promises novel, environmentally friendly energy from sources such as dry distillers’ grains from ethanol production.
The Power of the Sun
Akira Hirose is chasing the ultimate in solar power: fusion, the reaction that powers the sun.
A major challenge in harnessing this clean, virtually limitless energy source is how to add more fuel. Fusion reactors use donut-shaped magnetic fields to contain the fusion reaction, but if these fields are disrupted, the reaction stops.
With their compact torus injection technology, Hirose and his team are working to “put another log on the fire” without putting the fire out. The approach may provide the key to ITER, the world’s largest fusion reactor, being built in France. Hirose’s team built Canada’s first tokamak fusion device.
|Akira Hirose and his STOR-M team|
U of S Firsts: Environmental toxicology
The U of S is home to Western Canada’s only Toxicology Centre. Its reputation attracts top researchers including Canada Research Chairs John Giesy (Environmental Toxicology) and Monique Dubé (Aquatic Ecosystem Health Diagnosis).
Much research focuses on persistent organic pollutants in sensitive ecosystems and assessing the health of vital river systems. A multi-million expansion slated to open in mid-2007 is expected to place the Centre among the top toxicology institutes in North America.
Tracking Ancient Climates
U of S paleontology have made several “world first” discoveries in an ancient forest in the high Arctic which grew when the world was much warmer. The Saskatchewan Isotope Laboratory has developed unparalleled tools for paleoclimate studies, teasing data from sources as diverse as fish ear bones, ancient wood, and clam shells.
Green plastics incorporate flax and hemp fibre
Researchers at the U of S are now blending flax and hemp fibre with polymers to create bio-composite materials. Flax fibre is used to replace more expensive alternatives such as glass fibres, and deliver improved mechanical properties as well.
U of S Firsts: Sulfate-resistant Cement
1919: Chemistry professor Thorbergur Thorvaldson, shown here in his cement testing lab, develops the first sulfate-resistant cement, allowing durable concrete structures to survive in high-alkali soils such as those commonly found on the Canadian Prairies.
|Thorbergur Thorvaldson Photo: U of S Archives|