Western projects get internal boosts

Five Western projects are one step closer to moving their work toward commercialization with awards from the Western Innovation Fund (WIF).

The awards, launched in 2004 and distributed annually by the Office of the Vice-President (Research), provide incentive for researchers to explore commercial opportunities outside the lab. Applicants can only receive one grant per type of project or technology. Projects are expected to be of short duration (6-12 months). Up to $50,000 in funding is available and is repayable only if there is a positive commercial outcome.

Approximately $200,000 in funding will be shared by the following winning projects:

Jin Jiang
Electrical & Computer Engineering
Faculty of Engineering

Jiang received $25,000 for the project, A wireless backup and validation system for monitoring critical variables at industrial facilities.

Reliable monitoring of key variables in safety critical systems is very important in ensuring safety and dependability. Traditionally, measurements of these variables are transmitted over cables and wires from the field sensors to the control centres. Unfortunately, these systems are subject to damages as a result of fire, flood or even sabotage.  An invisible wireless backup system can provide additional assurance and increased availability of the entire monitoring system.

In this WIF project, the team will work with an industrial partner to develop a wireless backup and validation system for monitoring critical variables for industrial facilities. The prototype system will be field tested to gain feedbacks for improvement of the design and the manufacture process.

Jayshri Sabarinathan
Electrical & Computer Engineering
Faculty of Engineering

Sabarinathan received $25,000 for the project, Novel optical micro-pressure sensors based on photonic crystal waveguides.

Micro-pressure sensors with higher accuracy and smaller size are increasingly in demand for applications ranging from environmental to bio-medical sectors. In particular, optical fibre-based micro-sensors have advantages including high precision, safety in explosive media, electrical passivity, immunity to electromagnetic interference and good dynamic range of operation. The perfect optical micro-pressure sensor, based on photonic crystal waveguides developed here at Western, has a very small footprint area, compatibility with well-established silicon technology with potential for multiple device integration on the same chip – not available in the market today.

The main commercial application is the ability to measure pressure locally in a very small region such as lab-on-chip devices, very low gas flow conditions, bacterial forces and pressure catheters in small blood vessels. Funding will build a prototype of the sensor.

Kamran Siddiqui
Mechanical & Materials Engineering
Faculty of Engineering

Siddiqui received $48,850 for the project, Smart and cost-effective dual-axis solar tracking and load bearing system.

This innovative system provides a smart and cost-effective solution to a variety of solar energy devices including photovoltaic and concentrated solar thermal collectors. The system tracks the sun in real-time in a fully automated mode and adjusts itself under variable weather conditions.

The novel load-bearing mechanism carries most of the solar collector load and hence significantly reduces the size of motors and the power requirements. The design of the system radically reduces the installation time and provides substantial savings in both the initial capital and installation costs as well as the long-term operating costs of solar energy collectors.

Mark Workentin and Paul Ragogna
Faculty of Science

Workentin and Ragogna received $50,000 for the project, Efficient photochemical approach to robust hydrophobic coatings on materials with spatial control.

The ability to effectively repel water from a wide range of surfaces is a highly sought after technology, as many of our everyday experiences rely on such a property. Surfaces that repel water are termed ‘hydrophobic.’ Workentin’s research groups have generated a new technology that combines two materials developed in Western laboratories into a single product that brings with it the unique function of both moieties .

The funding will allow Workentin and Ragogna to focus efforts on demonstrating the application of these new materials on larger samples, other substrates and develop the scale-up and processing aspects of this new, efficient and robust water-barrier technology.

Jun Yang
Mechanical & Materials Engineering
Faculty of Engineering

Yang’s team received $49,305 for the project, A technique for fabrication of unique high-quality microfiltration membranes.

Yang has developed a novel method for the fabrication of well-defined microfiltration membranes with precise control over pore size. The coefficient of variation (CV) of pore size is only 0.15 per cent compared to a CV value in a range of 15 per cent-20 per cent for conventional membranes. These membranes will find implementation in a variety of areas such as the fine chemical, pharmaceutical, medical sectors and water treatment, and applications in the purification of blood, as well as high-precision particulate filtration and separation.