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Strategic partnerships address industry challenges

Three research projects awarded more than $1.2M to partner with Canadian industries to develop innovative technologies.
Strategic partnerships address industry challenges

Ken Coley

Danelle D’Alvise, Research Communications
February 10, 2014 

Three McMaster researchers have been awarded more than $1.2M from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to lead projects that will merge their research discoveries with innovation-driven companies.

Ken Coley will lead a research team for a project that highlights the breadth of expertise in the McMaster Steel Research Centre, partnered with local industries known for their capacity to bridge the gap between research and innovative technologies.

With the support of Hatch Ltd., ArcelorMittal Dofasco, U.S. Steel Canada  and Praxair Inc., Coley – with materials sciences and engineering colleagues Neslihan Dogan and Gordon Irons – will focus on developing third generation advanced high strength steels (AHSS) with properties beyond any demonstrated steel for use in the automotive industry.

Vehicle manufacturers are committed to developing and using materials in ways that reduce costs, enhance fuel economy and deliver uncompromised safety. While today’s average sized car has more than 600kg of steel – almost 10% less than two decades ago – the goal is to push that vehicle weight lower, while providing even more protection for the vehicle’s occupants.

As Coley explains it, there’s been a trade-off between steels that are high strength on the one hand, with steels that have been processed with high ductility – the capacity to deform permanently in response to stress – on the other.

While we want high strength steel protecting the passenger compartment, we also want steel that can be used in the “crumple zones” to absorb the impact of a collision. 

Coley’s research team is developing high manganese steels that will provide the best available combination of strength and ductility to tackle the issue of crashworthiness, while also contributing to the vehicle light-weighting that increases fuel economy and lowers greenhouse gas emissions.

With the help of the $565,903 Strategic Project Grant from NSERC, Coley’s research team, in collaboration with the project’s industry partners, will tackle the issue of how best to process the high manganese steel that could transform both steel and automotive manufacturing.

“This Strategic Project Grant provides our graduate students with the opportunity to do research in a vibrant collaborative environment that bridges the lab and the steel industry,” says Coley, “Our students will become part of a small group of engineers in the world equipped to understand the processing of the next generation of steel.”

Chemistry professor Alex Adronov and Todd Hoare, associate professor, chemical engineering were also awarded Strategic Project Grants in today’s national announcement, which awarded 78 scientific teams from across Canada with $38M in support.

Adronov’s project Selective Dispersion of single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes with Conjugated Polymers was awarded $364,362 to work with industry partner Raymor to address the lack of technology for the mass production of carbon nanotubes. The Adronov Research Group will exploit this strategic opportunity to carry out studies that will directly impact the ability of Raymor Industries to provide a product that is in wide demand. The reproduction of McMaster results in the industrial setting will also provide the graduate students on the research team with a tremendous learning experience.

Hoare’s project Design and Fabrication of Nanostructured “Smart” Hydrogels from Biopolymer Nanoparticle Building Blocks was awarded $270,500 to develop of novel soft nanostructered hydrogel and thin film materials that are fabricated from bio-renewable building blocks that are fully recyclable. Working with industry partner EcoSynthetix, Hoare’s focus will be on developing “smart” environmentally-responsive hydrogels that can be produced at less cost while preserving their functionality. These hydrogels can be used for drug delivery, tissue engineering, agriculture, environmental remediation, and industrial catalysis.

“Drs. Adronov, Coley and Hoare are leading research teams whose results will not only contribute to the development of commercially significant steel, carbon nanotubes, and “smart” environmentally-responsive hydrogels, they will also help create the next generation of technical leaders to drive these developments,” said Elbestawi.

At today’s national announcement, Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology), said “In our government’s updated Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy, we are making record investments necessary to push the boundaries of knowledge, create jobs and prosperity and improve the quality of life of Canadians. Today we are supporting research that is addressing key industry challenges over the next decade in natural resources and energy, manufacturing, environmental science and technologies, and information and communications technologies.”