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Date: January 15, 2013

UVic Researchers Explore New Frontiers

$3.4 million for UVic through CFI's Leading Edge Fund

Two teams of University of Victoria scientists are ready to delve into separate research frontiers—one on the leading edge of earth sciences to better understand fundamental aspects of how our planet works, the other pursuing how new nanomaterials can help create useful technological devices—thanks to funding announced today through the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

UVic will receive $1.8 million, part of a $7.7-million commitment through the CFI’s Leading Edge Fund toward a wide-reaching project in advanced materials science and technology led by researchers at SFU, and also involving UBC and BCIT.

The Prometheus Project aims to create a global hub for materials science and engineering innovation and commercialization, turning world-class research into jobs and growth by creating device prototypes for cleaner energy, improved health-care delivery, and faster data processing.

Dr. Alex Brolo, UVic’s principal investigator on the project, says the money will be used to upgrade lab and fabrication infrastructure so researchers have increased capacity to translate their designs into commercially viable prototypes.

“This will be a huge step toward taking our ideas to prototypes,” says Brolo, a UVic chemistry professor. “We have a strong core of infrastructure and this investment will help improve the capacity to transform our research into useful applications.”

Brolo says UVic’s research strength is the fabrication of nanomaterials that can be incorporated into solar cells capable of more efficient, low-cost power generation and also able to be mass-produced. They’re also working with new materials to create miniaturized biosensors and imaging probes, tools that might become ‘point-of-care’ analysis devices for early diagnosis of disease.

Dr. Laurence Coogan, associate professor in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, is the project leader for a research initiative receiving $1.62 million through the CFI.

Coogan says the project will create an “unprecedented opportunity” by attaching new scientific instruments to the underwater cable operated by UVic’s Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) NEPTUNE Canada observatory to enable real-time data observations and sampling at the hydrothermal vents from subsea volcanoes.

The new installations will roughly triple the level of instrumentation currently at the Endeavour node, more than 200 kilometres off the Pacific coast at a depth of more than two kilometres. The mid-ocean ridge node is considered a frontier for earth-sciences researchers, partially because scientists haven’t been able to get easy and reliable access to the deep-sea sites.

“This is really going to open up new opportunities for researchers to understand how mid-ocean ridges work,” says Coogan. “This is one place where we can watch the creation of new ocean crust take place in real time. The process of regeneration of the crust has a broad impact on the ocean and is one of the fundamental aspects of how our whole planet works.”

Most previous research at mid-ocean ridges involved ship-based investigation, with retrieval of data and samples delayed by weeks or even months.

“We’ll now be able to understand what’s happening immediately after a volcanic eruption or other disruption and understand how changes in the environment affect the surrounding ecosystems,” Coogan says, adding that installation is expected over the next few years with the data available to anyone who registers through ONC and NEPTUNE Canada to access it.

More information on today’s announcement by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation is available here, with additional details about the Prometheus Project here and here.
 

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Media contacts:

Dr. Alex Brolo (Chemistry) at 250-721-7167 or agbrolo@uvic.ca
Dr. Laurence Coogan (Earth & Ocean Sciences) at 250-472-4018 or lacoogan@uvic.ca
Mitch Wright (UVic Communications) at 250-721-6139 or mwwright@uvic.ca

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