Dr. Qiaoqin Yang
Canada Research Chair in Nanoengineering Coating Technologies
Dr. Qiaoqin Yang doesn’t delve beyond the surface of things. In fact, she focuses on surface modification – how surface coatings can dramatically alter an object’s resistance to wear.
“Surfaces are everywhere and very important for every application,” says Yang. “Surface coatings dictate how printers work, how well hard drives store memory, the colour of your office walls and the life of joint replacements.”
More than 50,000 total and partial joint replacements are performed in Canada each year. Increasing wear resistance is key to improving the durability and performance of artificial joints – and the molecular structure of surfaces is integral to this. In the course of her career Dr. Yang has developed several novel wear resistant coatings and, more recently, developed a technology that enables the synthesis of carbon films with controlled nanostructures. This technology will be used to create nanoengineered composite coatings that will combine superhardness and high-toughness to increase wear resistance.
Yang hopes these nanostructured carbon films will help surgical implants last significantly longer. “If we can keep implants for surgery from wearing they won’t have to be replaced. This will enhance a patient’s quality of life not only because of reduced surgical stress, but also because the wear is toxic.” The results of Yang’s research will reach beyond implants to also increase the lifespan of mechanical tools, a wide variety of moving parts, and even computers.
Yang brings an international perspective to the University of Saskatchewan, a viewpoint developed from working as a researcher in China, Japan and Austria before coming to the Canadian prairies. One of the main reasons Dr. Yang came to Saskatoon was the Canadian Light Source – not only for the synchrotron itself, but also because of the cohort of peers that have gathered around the CLS. One of Dr. Yang’s main collaborators is Dr. Akira Hirose, Canada Research Chair in Plasma Science.
“A place where collaboration is encouraged is so important,” says Yang. “It helps concentrate your work, gives you new ideas, and being around your peers motivates you.”
The ability to design new materials at a molecular level will have significant impacts not only on science and technology but on industry, the economy, and human health as well. Skimming the surface can indeed lead to deep discoveries.