Co-hosted with the Institute for Water Innovation (IWI)
Arup SenGupta, Lehigh University
Host: Prof. Nikolai De Martini
The elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration resulting from anthropogenic emissions is singularly responsible for global climate change and viewed as the worst existential threat confronting humanity today. Besides replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy and emission control, direct air capture (DAC) of CO2 from the ambient atmosphere has emerged as a potential strategy for achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). While the DAC implementation is geographically very flexible, the ultra-dilute atmospheric CO2 concentration (~ 400 ppm) poses a formidable hurdle for high CO2 capture capacity using sorption-desorption processes. At Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, we have developed a hybrid sorbent enabling a high CO2 sorption capacity (> 5.0 moles CO2 per kg sorbent) that is nearly 2-3 times greater than other sorbents reported to date. Upon exhaustion, this sorbent is amenable to efficient regeneration by simple salt solutions at ambient temperature without needing any thermal energy. This study reveals for the first time that sea water has the potential to be used both as a regenerant and a sink for direct air capture of CO2 at ambient temperature.
It is well recognized today that lack of access to quality water drives inequality and perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Although unknown nearly three decades ago, natural arsenic contamination of groundwater has emerged as a major global crisis affecting over fifty countries. The adverse health effects resulting from drinking of arsenic contaminated groundwater are most apparent in South and Southeast Asia in countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, India, Laos and China where over 200 million people, according to World Health Organization (WHO), are severely threatened with arsenic-inflicted health impairment. During the last 20 years, the speaker and his students aided by many international partners are striving to resolve the crisis globally. In many regions, intervention through innovative technology has resulted in economic growth and employment opportunities in affected communities. Speaker’s experience in several countries including India, Cambodia and Bangladesh will be presented.
For well over three decades, Arup K SenGupta’s research has encompassed nearly every aspect of water science and technology: from drinking water treatment to desalination to municipal wastewater reuse to resource recovery. SenGupta is internationally recognized for advancing and expanding the field of ion exchange science and technology, and applying it for development of sustainable technologies and new materials. Currently, SenGupta is actively pursuing direct air capture (DAC) of CO2 from atmosphere to mitigate global climate change. He is the inventor of the first reusable, arsenic-selective hybrid anion exchanger nanomaterial (HAIX-Nano). Over two million people around the globe currently drink arsenic-safe water through use of HAIX-Nano.
For his research and scholarly contributions, SenGupta received many national and international awards including: 2004 International Ion Exchange Award at the university of Cambridge, England; 2007 Grainger Challenge Silver Award (2007) from the National Academy of Engineering (NAE); 2009 Lawrence K Cecil Environmental Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE); and 2012 Intel Environmental Award for ‘technology benefiting humanity’ to name a few.
External members are required to register to receive the link and passcode. Registration closed at 9am on November 28.
Ted Sargent, University of Toronto
Host: Prof. Jane Howe
While much progress has been made to scaling solar technologies in the field, there remains a massive further (costly, and energy-intensive) build to be completed to meet the global community’s ambitious net zero 2050 goals. Electrifying fuels and chemical synthesis is less far along, with the technologies for CO2 capture and utilization/upgrade still seeing ongoing development and the subject of fundamental scientific research. I will overview progress in each and then propose some targets and exciting directions for these intertwined topics.
Ted Sargent holds the rank of University Professor at the University of Toronto where he is appointed in ECE. His publications have been cited 80,000 times. 145 of his works have been cited 145 times or more. www.light.utoronto.ca
Cliff Davidson, Syracuse University
Host: Prof. Elodie Passeport
Airborne particles exist in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and chemical compositions. Some are natural, some are emitted from human activities, and others are formed in the atmosphere from gases. The gases can also be natural or anthropogenic. Once airborne, particles can be carried hundreds or even thousands of kilometers by wind before interacting with surfaces and depositing. In this talk, we examine the many ways in which atmospheric particles interact with surfaces of all kinds – natural vegetation, agriculture crops, landscaping, bare soil, water, snowfields, and urban hardscape surfaces. Such understanding is important when predicting the ultimate fate of particulate matter, whether the particles are inhaled and reach the human respiratory system, or whether they deposit on surfaces and cause damage. In all cases of deposition from the atmosphere, particles carried in the mainstream of the airflow must somehow be delivered to the quasi-laminar boundary layer adjacent to the surface, and must then traverse the boundary layer to rest on the surface. These two steps, as well as a third step in which particles rebound off the surface back into airflow, define the deposition process. For a large field of uniform vegetation less than a few meters in height, the wind field and boundary layer characteristics are well known, and deposition onto the vegetation can be predicted for a range of particle sizes and wind speeds. For more complex vegetation, such as a forest canopy, we usually resort to empirical methods to estimate deposition. For water surfaces, the hygroscopicity of the particles may need to be taken into account. Deposition on large lakes and the oceans must also account for wave action. Deposition to snow is complicated by the porous nature of the surface, and the fact that the surface area of individual snow crystals may influence the motions of very small particles. Finally, estimating deposition to buildings, roads, and other urban surfaces can be a challenge due to the changes in geometry of the surface over short distance scales. We discuss the special case of estimating particle deposition onto urban surfaces, including a large extensive green roof. Both modeling and measurement of particle interaction with surfaces is presented, and use of well-controlled experimental surfaces in wind tunnels as well as in the ambient atmosphere is discussed as a means of improving our understanding of the deposition process. A separate tutorial covering the airflow and rain impinging on a green roof in Syracuse, NY will be presented. The tutorial will explain the capabilities of a new website showing real-time data and archived data from the green roof. The website is intended for use in the classroom to help students understand the physical processes taking place on a green roof and the functions of a green roof.
Cliff Davidson is the Thomas and Colleen Wilmot Professor of Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY. He also serves as Director of Environmental Engineering Programs, and Director of the Center for Sustainable Engineering. He received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Environmental Engineering Science from California Institute of Technology. Following his PhD, he joined the Carnegie Mellon faculty in the Department of Civil Engineering (currently Civil and Environmental Engineering) and the Department of Engineering and Public Policy, where he served for 33 years. He joined Syracuse University in 2010. He has 140 publications in peer reviewed journals, and has given roughly 200 presentations at conferences, seminars, and workshops. He is a Fellow in four organizations: American Association for Aerosol Research (AAAR), the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems. He served as President of AAAR in 1999-2000. Davidson’s long-term research interest is transport and fate of environmental pollutants, especially atmospheric acids and heavy metals. More recently, he has studied the role of engineers in sustainable development, focusing on green infrastructure. He has also studied changes in education needed to train an engineering workforce for the 21st century.
Every year the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry (ChemE) at U of T invites prospective students from across Canada to Graduate Research Days (GRD). This event showcases the value of a graduate degree from ChemE. As many of you already know, we are offering GRD2023 in two parts:
- Virtual Exploration on Monday, January 16 from 1-3PM
- In-Person Visit from Thursday, February 23 to Saturday, February 25
During the Virtual Exploration, professors will pitch their labs and meet prospective MASc/PhD students through a speed-networking session. Top candidates from the Virtual Exploration will be invited for an expense-paid, In-Person Visit from Thursday, February 23 to Saturday, February 25.
Don’t miss out! Register by Monday, January 2!
Stephanie Loeb, Assistant Professor
Civil Engineering, McGill University
Abstract: Light is the most abundant and fastest moving energy resource on Earth. Sunlight is the primary driver of many environmental transformation and decay processes, while environmental remediation technologies that harness sunlight can be driven by a sustainable energy source, typically do not require consumable chemicals, and have greater mobility for use in isolated and off-grid locations. This seminar will discuss processes and technologies that harness solar energy for water treatment, with particular emphasis on disinfection of viral pathogens. Understanding light induced inactivation is key to predicting the fate of viral pathogens in the environment, while engineered light-based treatment systems provide opportunities to develop sustainable, practical, and effective methods for controlling viral pathogens.
A meta-analysis of available sunlight inactivation rate constants for viruses and their surrogates revealed little correlation between pathogens and their common surrogates, as well as knowledge gaps in the wavelength dependent damage mechanisms. To study these mechanisms, we used a genome-wide PCR approach to study photodamage in the genomes of human norovirus and a common surrogate bacteriophage MS2. In contrast to previous work indicating that UV inactivation occurs primarily through the formation of pyrimidine dimers which render the viral genome non-replicable after a single photon absorption event, we found that the single-hit inactivation assumption is invalid under simulated solar radiation, highlighting the need for further mechanistic analysis of genomic photoproducts and the contribution of non-genomic damage to viruses under environmentally relevant conditions.
Harnessing solar energy for water treatment is a highly desirable approach to provide safe water in resource limited locations. The preferred photocatalytic nanomaterial for water treatment applications, TiO2, has a relatively wide bandgap, limiting its spectral overlap with the most abundant solar wavelengths. Nanomaterials exhibiting surface plasmon resonance can act as light antennae when incoming resonant light radiation generates an intense electric-field enhancement leading to absorption cross-sections many times greater than the size of the particle ─ essentially, the particle can absorb more light than incident on it. Recently, we developed a novel nanomaterial enabled system for sustainable solar photothermal disinfection, leading to the first demonstration of direct solar nanoparticle-enhanced thermal inactivation of bacteria and viruses in drinking water. Likewise, we have synthesized composite plasmonic-photocatalytic nanomaterials that can enhance the light absorption properties of TiO2 permitting more effective degradation of organic contaminants. We further optimize these approaches through the fabrication of prototype reactors from immobilized nanomaterial films for application in flow-through validation tests.
Microsoft Teams meeting
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Meeting ID: 273 162 049 555
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+1 647-794-1609,,546329235# Canada, Toronto
Phone Conference ID: 546 329 235#
Abstract: In chemical synthesis, making and breaking chemical bonds often requires traversing large energy differences. Traditionally, industrial chemical processes have relied on pressure and temperature as driving forces, and the energy generally comes from fossil fuels. However, with the advent of distributed and accessible renewable electricity, it is attractive to consider driving these chemical processes with renewable electricity instead. In this talk, I will first look at the broad question of how to compare electrochemical routes with traditional thermochemical routes for chemical transformations, comparing voltage, temperature, and pressure as thermodynamic driving forces. Second, I will discuss how electrochemistry can enable access to renewable carbon feedstocks, i.e., carbon dioxide. Specifically, I will discuss how voltage can efficiently drive the separation of carbon dioxide from ocean water for capture and utilization. Third, I will discuss electrochemical ammonia activation. Ammonia has one of the largest global production rates by volume and is a nexus synthesis molecule, either directly or indirectly providing nitrogen for a range of molecules such as polymers and pharmaceuticals. I will discuss how an applied potential can help form carbon-nitrogen bonds, an electrochemical analogue to traditional reductive amination. I will also briefly talk about an energy storage paradigm that leverages ammonium formate, a combination of ammonia and formic acid, to store renewable electricity. Overall, I will start with the broad question of why and when to use voltage in the chemical industry, and then I will focus on how electrochemistry can aid processes such as capturing carbon dioxide and ammonia utilization.
Bio: Zachary Schiffer is currently a Resnick Sustainability Postdoctoral Scholar with Prof. Harry Atwater at Caltech, where his research focuses on electrochemical carbon capture from seawater and photocatalytic nitrogen reduction. He completed his Ph.D. in Fall 2021 with Prof. Karthish Manthiram at the MIT Department of Chemical Engineering. His graduate thesis work focused broadly on exploring electrification and decarbonization routes for industrial chemical processes, with a focus on the development of electrochemical routes for ambient-condition nitrogen cycle reactions. In general, his research combines fundamental thermodynamics, kinetic analysis techniques, computational chemistry, and materials synthesis to explore electrochemical systems. Before his Ph.D., he completed a B.S.E. in Chemical and Biological Engineering at Princeton University, performing his senior thesis work on the mechanics of Li-ion batteries with Prof. Craig Arnold.
Microsoft Teams meeting
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Meeting ID: 273 722 428 907
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+1 647-794-1609,,911748171# Canada, Toronto
Phone Conference ID: 911 748 171#
External members are required to register to receive the link and passcode. Registration closed at 9am on January 23.
Tony Mikos, Rice University
Host: Prof. Molly Shoichet
Advances in biology, materials science, chemical engineering, computer science, and other fields have allowed for the development of tissue engineering, an interdisciplinary convergence science. Our laboratory has focused on the development and characterization of biomaterials-based strategies for the regeneration of human tissues with the goal of improving healthcare outcomes. In a collaborative effort with physicians, surgeons, and other scientists, we have produced new material compositions and three-dimensional scaffolds, and investigated combinations of biomaterials with cell populations and bioactive agents for their ability to induce tissue formation and regeneration. We have examined the effects of material characteristics, such as mechanical properties, topographical features, and functional groups, on cell behavior and tissue guidance, and leveraged biomaterials as drug delivery vehicles to release growth factors and other signals with spatial and temporal specificity. This presentation will review recent examples of injectable and 3D-printable biomaterials-based approaches for regenerative medicine applications and highlight emerging areas of growth, such as the use of tissue engineering to model tumor microenvironments for validation of cancer therapeutic discovery.
Antonios G. Mikos is the Louis Calder Professor of Bioengineering and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Rice University. His research focuses on the synthesis, processing, and evaluation of new biomaterials for use as scaffolds for tissue engineering, as carriers for controlled drug delivery, as non-viral vectors for gene therapy, and as platforms for disease modeling. His work has led to the development of novel orthopaedic, dental, cardiovascular, neurologic, and ophthalmologic biomaterials. He is the author of over 680 publications and the inventor of 32 patents. Mikos is a Member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Inventors, the Chinese Academy of Engineering, the Academia Europaea, and the Academy of Athens. He has been recognized by various awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society-Americas, the Founders Award of the Society For Biomaterials, the Founders Award of the Controlled Release Society, the Acta Biomaterialia Gold Medal, and the Robert A. Pritzker Distinguished Lecturer Award of the Biomedical Engineering Society. He is a founding editor and editor-in-chief of the journal Tissue Engineering.
PhD Candidate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Abstract: Global decarbonization of the energy sector necessitates development of storage technologies to mediate the inherent intermittency of renewable resources. Electrochemical systems are well-positioned to support this transition with redox flow batteries (RFBs) emerging as a promising grid-scale platform, as their unique architecture offers decoupled energy / power scaling, simplified manufacturing, and long service life. Despite these favorable characteristics, current embodiments remain prohibitively expensive for broad adoption, motivating the development of new electrolyte formulations (e.g., redox molecules, supporting salts, solvents) and reactor materials (e.g., electrodes, membranes) to meet performance and cost targets for emerging applications. While many next-generation materials offer performance improvements, they must carefully balance complex tradeoffs between power / energy density, cycling stability, energy efficiency, and capital costs. This multifaceted parameter space frustrates the articulation of unambiguous design criteria, as the relationships between constituent material properties and cell performance metrics are not yet well-understood. To this end, my research establishes rational design strategies for RFBs to enable robust, cost-competitive, and durable grid-scale energy storage.
In this talk, I will first introduce a modeling framework for describing cell cycling behavior in RFBs, building on thermodynamic, kinetic, and transport descriptions for electrochemical processes. Using this generalized set of constitutive equations, I will discuss analytical solutions for the coupled mass balances, enabling facile simulation of charge / discharge behavior and device performance metrics. I will then describe the development of new experimental methodologies that facilitate characterization of constituent materials under conditions that more closely resemble those observed in practical embodiments. Broadly, the methods developed in this work have the potential to advance foundational understanding in RFB design and operation, leading to more rigorous selection criteria for candidate materials.
Bio: Bertrand is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and Martin Fellow for Sustainability pursuing his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at MIT. His research in the Brushett Group centers on the design of redox flow batteries, applying chemical and electrochemical engineering principles to better understand design tradeoffs for constituent materials. He is also the Editor-in-Chief for the MIT Science Policy Review and a fellow in the ChemE Communication Lab. Prior to graduate school, Bertrand received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Ohio University. He is passionate about educating the next generation of chemical engineers and developing electrochemical technologies to address modern sustainability challenges.
Microsoft Teams meeting
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Meeting ID: 239 452 239 663
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+1 647-794-1609,,279240058# Canada, Toronto
Phone Conference ID: 279 240 058#
Abstract: Accelerating the discovery of new molecules and materials, as well as green and sustainable ways to synthesize and manufacture them, will have a profound impact on the global challenges in energy, sustainability, and healthcare. The current human-dependent paradigm of experimental research in chemical and materials sciences fails to identify technological solutions for worldwide challenges in a short timeframe. This limitation necessitates the development and implementation of new strategies to accelerate the pace of discovery. Recent advances in reaction miniaturization, automated experimentation, and data science provide an exciting opportunity to reshape the discovery and manufacturing of new molecules and materials related to energy transition and sustainability. In this talk, I will present a ‘self-driving fluidic lab (SDFL)’ for autonomous discovery and manufacturing of emerging advanced functional materials and molecules, with multi-step chemistries, through integration of flow chemistry, online characterization, and machine learning (ML). I will discuss how modularization of different chemical synthesis and processing stages in tandem with a constantly evolving ML modeling and decision-making under uncertainty can enable a resource-efficient navigation through high dimensional experimental design spaces (>1020 possible experimental conditions). Example applications of SDFL for the autonomous synthesis of clean energy nanomaterials will be presented to illustrate the potential of autonomous robotic experimentation in reducing synthetic route discovery timeframe from >10 years to a few months. Finally, I will present the unique reconfigurability aspect of flow chemistry to close the scale gap in chemical and materials research through facile switching from the reaction exploration/exploitation to smart manufacturing mode.
Bio: Milad Abolhasani is an Associate Professor and a University Faculty Scholar in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at North Carolina State University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 2014. Prior to joining NC State University, he was an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Chemical Engineering at MIT (2014-2016). At NC State University, Dr. Abolhasani leads a diverse research group that studies self-driving labs tailored toward accelerated development and manufacturing of advanced functional materials and molecules using fluidic micro-processors. Dr. Abolhasani has received numerous awards and fellowships, including NSF CAREER Award, AIChE 35 Under 35, Dreyfus Award for Machine Learning in the Chemical Sciences & Engineering, AIChE NSEF Young Investigator Award, I &EC Research 2021 Class of Influential Researchers, AIChE Futures Scholar, The John C. Chen Young Professional Leadership Scholarship (AIChE), ACS-PRF Doctoral New Investigator Award, and Emerging Investigator recognition from Lab on a Chip, Reaction Chemistry & Engineering, and Journal of Flow Chemistry.
Microsoft Teams meeting
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Meeting ID: 213 751 058 203
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+1 647-794-1609,,962745443# Canada, Toronto
Phone Conference ID: 962 745 443#
External members are required to register at to receive the link and passcode. Registration closed at 9am on January 30.
Jennifer Wilcox, US Department of Energy
Host: Prof. Jay Werber
President Biden has laid out a bold and ambitious goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions in the U.S. by 2050. The pathway to that target includes cutting total greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and eliminating them entirely from the Nation’s electricity sector by 2035. Investment in technology research, design, development, and deployment (RDD&D) will be required to achieve the president’s objectives, including investments in both carbon capture at point sources in addition to carbon dioxide removal approaches that target the accumulated pool of carbon in the atmosphere. Both will be required to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in time and they will require increased deployment in order to move down the cost curve. These efforts combined with effective policy will make these approaches economically viable.
These approaches are critical and they must be deployed in parallel. Deployment of these technologies at the scale required will necessitate the use of resources including land, water, and in some cases, low-carbon energy, while ensuring the secure and reliable storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) on a timescale that impacts climate. Therefore, CCS and CDR deployment must be implemented strategically in terms of regional goals and requirements.
The Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management will play an important role in the transition to net-zero carbon emissions by reducing the environmental impacts of fossil energy production and use – and helping decarbonize other hard-to abate sectors – through investments in technology solutions including CCS, direct air capture, and the deployment of carbon capture technologies to produce low-carbon products and fuel, including hydrogen.
Professor Jennifer Wilcox, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (Acting Assistant Secretary) in the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management at DOE and is on leave as the Presidential Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering and Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, as a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute, she led WRI’s Carbon Removal Program.
Having grown up in rural Maine, Dr. Wilcox has a profound respect and appreciation of nature. That appreciation permeates her work; she focuses on minimizing climate and environmental impacts of our dependence on fossil fuels.
Dr. Wilcox holds a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering and an M.A. in Chemistry from the University of Arizona and B.A. in Mathematics from Wellesley College. Dr. Wilcox’s research takes aim at the nexus of energy and the environment, developing both mitigation and adaptation strategies to minimize negative climate impacts associated with society’s dependence on fossil fuels. She has served on committees of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Physical Society to assess carbon capture methods and impacts on climate. She is the author of the first textbook on carbon capture, Carbon Capture, published in March 2012. She co-edited the CDR Primer on carbon dioxide removal in 2021.