Assistant Professor Erin Bobicki to partner with mining company Vale Canada on storing CO2

Seven University of Toronto researchers working with industrial and institutional partners have been awarded funding from the federal government for projects ranging from new medical diagnostic tools to environmentally friendly advancements in mining, forestry and manufacturing.

The joint research initiatives are receiving a total of nearly $3.8 million over three years in strategic partnership grants from Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). The grants are aimed at increasing research and training in targeted areas that will impact the Canadian economy, society or the environment within the next 10 years.

“These research projects demonstrate how U of T successfully collaborates with private industry and government to tackle big challenges by harnessing science to benefit society in areas like the environment, communications, natural resources and advanced manufacturing,” said Vivek Goel, U of T’s vice-president of research and innovation.

“In the process, we’re also ensuring our best and brightest young researchers get the training they need to become highly qualified for the jobs of the future.”

The projects – which add to U of T’s existing partnership initiatives – cover everything from CO2 storage techniques in mining that also create valuable products from industrial waste to the development of new generations of materials and components for electric cars and fibre optics. (See full list of recipients below.)

Assistant Professor Erin Bobicki, one of seven U of T researchers whose projects have been awarded federal funding, will partner with mining company Vale Canada on storing CO2 in mine tailings to keep it out of the atmosphere (photo by Kevin Soobrian)

Assistant Professor Erin Bobicki (MSE/ChemE) will receive $471,230 over three years that will allow her to partner with mining company Vale Canada on storing CO2 in mine tailings to keep it out of the atmosphere. They are also researching how to use CO2 to store mining waste as a stable dry compound that could be used in products like cements.

“There are multiple environmental benefits associated with this,” said Bobicki, who calculates that a 50,000-ton-per-day mining operation could store the equivalent CO2 emitted by a one MW power plant.

The research is also looking at reacting CO2 with raw ores to make it easier to extract valuable metals such as nickel.

“There is going to be a huge demand for nickel for electric vehicles, and if we can figure out how to economically process this ore using CO2, we can unlock over $40 billion worth of nickel in northern Manitoba,” said Bobicki.