Nine Engineering professors and alumni inducted into the Canadian Academy of Engineering

Nine Engineering professors and alumni inducted into the Canadian Academy of Engineering

Professor Robert Andrews’ work has lead him to solve real-world problems for drinking water safety.

Nine members of the U of T Engineering community have been inducted as fellows of the Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE). Professors Robert Andrews (CivE), Sanjeev Chandra (MIE), Tom Chau (IBBME), Heather MacLean (CivE) and Wei Yu (ECE), along with alumni Perry Adebar (CivE MASc 8T7, PhD 9T0), Mark Hundert (IndE 7T1), Christopher Pickles (MMS 7T4, MASc 7T5, PhD 7T7) and John Young (MMS 7T1, MIE MASc 7T4) are among the CAE’s 50 new fellows. The CAE is a national institution through which Canada’s most distinguished and experienced engineers provide strategic advice on matters of critical importance to Canada. The new CAE fellows were inducted on June 26 in Ottawa, as part of the Academy’s Annual General Meeting and Symposium.

“The Academy’s recognition of so many faculty and alumni attests to the tremendous contributions U of T Engineers are making in Canada and around the world,” said Dean Cristina Amon. “It also demonstrates their impact in all aspects of the engineering profession — from engineering education to fundamental research to technology transfer, commercialization and consulting.”

Robert Andrews holds the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Drinking Water Research, working with industry partners who serve over four million people in Southern Ontario. His collaborations with municipalities have allowed him to solve real-world problems that have a direct impact on the safety of Canada’s drinking water supply. An expert in drinking water treatment, Andrews is a member of several decision-making committees and advisory councils in Canada and the United States. His work has been recognized with prestigious awards from the Engineering Institute of Canada, the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering, and the American Water Works Association, among others.

Sanjeev Chandra is co-founder of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Coating Technologies, one of the world’s leading research centres in the area of thermal spray coatings. He has collaborated with research groups and industrial partners around the world in the development of cutting-edge technology in this area. Chandra’s work has been applied in the fields of spray coating and forming, spray cooling, ink jet printing, agricultural spraying and forensic science. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering, and received the NSERC Brockhouse Prize.

Through his research at Holland Bloorview and U of T, Tom Chau has developed assistive technologies which give children and youth with severe physical limitations the ability to communicate independently. Chau created the award-winning Virtual Music Instrument, which allows individuals with disabilities to express themselves through music. Additionally, he has pioneered optical brain-computer interfaces which allow nonverbal individuals to communicate through thought alone. Chau is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and the recipient of several awards. In 2011 he was named one of 25 Transformational Canadians by The Globe and Mail.

Heather MacLean is an internationally recognized leader in sustainable systems analysis, including life cycle assessment and its application to energy systems and vehicles. Her work has led to sustainability assessment and life cycle assessment being viewed as critical tools by industry, government and other organizations, and has guided regulations such as California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard. MacLean is an advisor to the World Bank/World Resources Institute for Sustainable Transportation. She is a fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada and recipient of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Excellence in Education Award for Promotion of Sustainable Practices.

Wei Yu has made highly influential contributions to the field of information theory and communication engineering. His research addresses fundamental limits of information transmission in communication networks. Yu proposed dynamic spectrum management methods that have been used in millions of digital subscriber lines worldwide and also contributed significantly to the capacity analysis and optimization techniques for multiuser multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) wireless communication channels, which are widely used in cellular networks. Professor Yu is an IEEE fellow, recipient of the NSERC E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship, and a Thompson Reuters Highly Cited Researcher.

Perry Adebar has made important contributions to the profession and practice of engineering in Canada. An award-winning educator, he is known for presenting a strong connection between theory and engineering practice, and his views are highly respected by industry. He is head of UBC Civil Engineering, and was previously associate dean of Applied Science at UBC. His research has had a direct impact on the seismic design of high-rise concrete buildings in Canada. Professor Adebar has provided engineering advice to several consulting engineering firms. He is a director of the Structural Engineers of B.C. and a member of the Canada TF-1 HUSAR Team.

Mark Hundert is a pioneer in the application of industrial engineering and operations research practices in order to improve the delivery of health care in Canada. He has helped to introduce principles and methodologies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our hospitals and other health care organizations. Among his many contributions in this field, Hundert spearheaded the development of a national database benchmarking the efficiency and quality of care in Canadian hospitals, which has been an essential tool in identifying and addressing areas needing improvement in the Canadian health care system. He received the Ontario Professional Engineers Management Medal in 2008.

A leading authority on microwave heating for metallurgical applications, Christopher Pickles has been a pioneer in the development of microwaves for processing ores, precious metal residues, and waste materials. Other major contributions include the use of extended arc plasma reactors for the treatment of electric furnace dusts and generation of ferro-alloys. Professor Pickles has presented short courses for industry, mentored close to 70 researchers, published over 170 papers, coedited five conference volumes and coauthored a textbook on Chemical Metallurgy. He is a fellow of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum and has won national awards.

John Young has been eminently successful in the generation and application of new knowledge associated with primary steelmaking operations. He has provided exceptional engineering leadership in simulation modelling and commissioning of numerous steelmaking plants within Canada and abroad. He has coauthored a textbook entitled “Metallurgical Plant Design” and made significant contributions to the training of engineers in industry, as well as engineering students at both McGill and U of T, where he serves as an adjunct lecturer and instructor for MSE 450: Plant Design for Materials Process Industries. Throughout his career, Young has been an excellent ambassador for the engineering profession. He has received a number of high profile awards from AIME’s Iron and Steel Society.

Originally appeared on U of T Engineering News by Carolyn Farell | Posted on June 27th, 2017

 

Leading the way on lead research

Aki Kogo (MASc Candidate) looks over the lead (Pb) pipe experimental setup in the Environmental Lab. (Credit: Keenan Dixon)

Researchers aim to prevent a Flint-like crisis from happening in Canada

An interview with Prof. Robert Andrews, Sarah Jane Payne (Post-Doc) and Aki Kogo (MASc Candidate).

In 2014, the city of Flint, Michigan, switched its water source from Lake Michigan to the Flint River. Inadequate treatment and reporting caused lead (Pb) contaminated drinking water to be delivered to Flint residents, resulting in a state of emergency being declared.
Researchers at the University of Toronto’s Drinking Water Research Group (DWRG) have been actively studying the behaviour of lead (Pb) in water distribution systems since 2012, with a particular focus on southern Ontario drinking water sources.
“The problems in Flint emerged because the alternate water source had a slightly different water chemistry that disturbed the protective lead (Pb)-scale on the existing lead (Pb) pipes,” said Prof. Robert Andrews, a principal investigator with the DWRG. “Short of replacing all the lead (Pb) service connections in the system immediately, it will take time for the damaged scale on the interior of the pipes to build up with time and repair itself.”

Sarah Jane Payne, U of T Post-Doctoral Fellow, explains that scale (the buildup of materials lining the inside of water pipes), much like rust, can be relatively stable. However, it can cause significant issues when disturbed, as it was with the water change in Flint.
“Municipalities add different chemicals, called corrosion inhibitors, to the local water, which react with dissolved lead (Pb) in the water and re-deposit it on the surface of the pipe to form the scale,” Payne describes. “Each water source (lake or river) has a different chemistry, such as alkalinity, pH and inorganic carbon, which affects how the corrosion inhibitors react.”
“The crisis in Flint highlighted what many people take for granted,” said Andrews. “Researchers are aware of real-life issues and through careful experimentation are always looking for unintended consequences. Asking ourselves if we make one change, how is this going to affect something else?”

The science of inhibitors

As far back as the fourth century B.C.E, the ancient Greeks preferred terracotta pipes over lead (Pb). They knew, even then, that lead (Pb) negatively impacted health. Today, we know lead (Pb) is a powerful neurotoxin with serious implications for neurological development in children. Despite this, lead (Pb) has persevered as a material for pipes due to its durability and ease of use. Lead (Pb) service lines, connecting the water main to the home, were widely employed in North America until the early 1950s, when regulations ended the use of lead materials for new lines.

Municipalities today use a variety of methods including the application of corrosion inhibitors, like orthophosphate and zinc-orthophosphate, to reduce the amount of lead (Pb) consumed by the general population. These chemicals react with lead (Pb) to form a compound that precipitates out of solution to form a stable, crystal-like lining on the inner surface of the pipe. The lead (Pb)-scale is very thin – only a few microns thick.

The problem can be made even more complex when considering physical disturbances, changes or fluctuations in water chemistry, and seasonal changes in temperature, which can loosen existing scales and disrupt the chemical balance between the water and the pipes.

Utilities try to form the strongest scales possible given varying water chemistry. Local water quality conditions dictate what needs to be changed or added to reduce corrosion.

“When phosphate-based corrosion inhibitors are used, lead (Pb)-phosphate scales become more and more stable over time,” said Andrews. “Understanding that chemistry and timeline is actually quite complex.”

“Reducing corrosion isn’t just about adding corrosion inhibitors. It can also be about changing the attributes of the water itself, such as adjusting the pH,” said Payne. “It is being aware of these details, looking at them holistically that determines what combination of attributes and additives might lead (Pb) to the least amount of lead (Pb) in drinking water.

Study: Comparing inhibitors

Researchers with the DWRG wanted to compare corrosion control options for Lake Ontario water using the two most common corrosion inhibitors: zinc-orthophosphate and orthophosphate. However, as phosphates are a finite resource, sodium silicate was also selected as a non-phosphate-based inhibitor to research.

“Phosphates are expensive and the price is volatile, so we wanted to include an alternative. That’s why we looked at sodium silicate,” said Payne. “Sodium silicates’ corrosion inhibitor properties have been known since the 1920s, but the funny thing is that no one really knows exactly how they work. So we compared it to the performance of phosphate-based inhibitors to try to understand more about this corrosion inhibitor.”

IMG_0613To fully understand how Lake Ontario water will interact in local water distribution systems, lead (Pb) pipes that had been in use for 65 years were sourced. To simulate a scenario where a homeowner has not replaced their portion of the water service line, a partial lead (Pb) service line replacement was set up in the DWRG laboratory.

“All of our test pipes came out of a community in Ontario. When you think about these pipes, many have been underground since the 1940s. They’ve had decades of different chemical combinations pass through them,” explained Payne. “What their particular scale is formed of and what conditions keep them stable is not well understood. We use real lead (Pb) pipes that have been pulled out of the ground that we know have a history. We can do more realistic experiments with those because using a new lead (Pb) pipe would be a totally different story.”

“Both phosphate-based inhibitors performed very well, though zinc-orthophosphate did seem to perform a little better,” said Aki Kogo, MASc Candidate. “Initially, the sodium silicate did not do very well but later in the experiment we started to see some better results with it.”

Now that testing has wrapped up at the DWRG lab, this setup of lead (Pb) testing equipment will be moved to a municipality’s water treatment facility for future studies.

“It’s through a lot of hard work by smart people that this research gets done,” Payne said. “Just to get the water every week, Aki and Jim Wang [DWRG Research Chemist] transported 500 litres of ‘untreated’ water back to the tanks in our lab. There is so much physical work, time and intellectual dedication that goes into research like this.”

The impact of research

“People in the water industry are very passionate about public health and that’s always at the forefront of any water treatment research,” explains Andrews.

“What we do every day affects millions of people. Our research is done quietly, but it’s really quite important. There are strong researchers in Canada, who are truly focused on the health of Canadians and those around the world.”

Public health plays a significant role in directing the research on drinking water quality.

“There’s the epidemiology and toxicology side that drives the health-based inquiry,” said Payne. “The engineering side looks into accomplishing what is required to meet the standards set by health-based researchers. It is a back and forth iterative process that helps regulators set standards that municipalities must meet.”

“In Canada, we have a lot of utilities that are forward thinking,” explains Andrews. “It is extremely rare for a municipality to change its water source. Because of the safeguards in sampling and reporting that we have in Canada, along with the conscientiousness and vigilance of water treatment personnel, it is very unlikely that a Flint-like emergency situation will happen in Canada.”

About the Drinking Water Research Group

The Drinking Water Research Group (DWRG), formed in 1998, is a consortium of researchers from the University of Toronto. The group operates as a team working to improve drinking water quality through sound research and engineering. With over 25 ongoing projects, the DWRG typically undertakes collaborative projects examining treatment, distribution, compliance and innovation to meet future water needs. Unique resources, including a large number of municipal and industrial partners, allow for various issues to be examined.

 

 

Profile: The Institute for Water Innovation

Water plays a critical role in our lives. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) “the total usable freshwater supply for ecosystems and humans is 200,000 km3 of water, which accounts for only 0.01 per cent of all water on earth.” By 2050 global water demand is projected to increase by 50 per cent due to growing manufacturing, thermal electricity generation and domestic use.

As global water scarcity and stress persist, solutions are needed to reduce pressure on freshwater assets. Now, more than ever, a focus on innovation is necessary to combat water challenges.

The newly established Institute for Water Innovation (IWI) at the University of Toronto is poised to address these challenges. According to Mandeep Rayat, Manager of IWI, the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering has over 30 principal investigators from all the major engineering disciplines with research interests related to water. Seven of these researchers are in the Department of Civil Engineering.

The Department of Civil Engineering is playing a key role in addressing water challenges that affect human health, economic development and political stability.

Drinking Water Research Group: Clean water for cities

The Drinking Water Research Group (from top left: Profs. Robert Andrews, Susan Andrews and Ron Hofmann) examine all aspects of drinking water, from distribution optimization to new treatment technologies.

10593281256_44f81c99b1_k (2)“People in the water industry are very passionate about public health and that’s always at the forefront of any water treatment experiments,” explains Andrews. “What we do every day affects millions of people. Our research is done quietly but it’s really important. There are strong researchers in Canada working really hard who are truly focused on the health of Canadians and those around the world.”

With over 25 ongoing projects, the DWRG typically undertakes collaborative projects examining treatment, distribution, compliance and innovation to meet future water needs. By partnering with municipalities, a broad range of issues can be examined and knowledge transferred directly to utilities, regulators and policy-makers.

Jennifer Drake: Permeable pavement, rain gardens, green roofs

Drake-photo-2Prof. Jennifer Drake is looking forward to the future when her urban-based research on permeable pavements, rain gardens and green roofs will benefit from the collaboration at the IWI. “We know that these [technologies] work, but if you put them all in one neighbourhood, how do they work together? Do they interact? Can they mitigate the impacts that urbanization traditionally has on our water resources? This is long-term research where we can see how sustained small changes can make a huge impact on urban living.”

Plans are already underway to increase opportunities for research investment and collaboration with industry partners to focus on water-related needs of private firms, whose primary issue is water remediation; mining and oil sands production require a lot of water and produce a lot of pollution, which makes water-based innovation necessary.

“We need to conduct research that looks beyond remediation and maximizes water usage,” explains Drake. “We’re trying to build U of T as a leader in water technology and sustainability and now we have something that can unite us and give us a bigger presence. We’re highlighting the water expertise by connecting mechanical, chemical and civil engineering so that we increasingly work together.”

Elodie Passeport: Harnessing wetlands to purify our water

Prof. Elodie Passeport’s research focuses on understanding the behaviour of water contaminants and testing passive water treatment system designs that optimize contaminant removal. The belief that environmental quality is a cornerstone of ecosystems and human health, helps drive her research.

14150843628_b92fe2f37e_k (2)Why are wetlands important?

Natural wetlands are important ecosystems that help control flooding, improve water quality and provide multi-species habitats. Engineered wetlands are a low-cost, low-energy alternative to conventional water treatment systems.

Is it true that wetlands help to purify water systems?

Constructed wetlands can be engineered to enhance wetlands’ natural ability to remove pollution. By using natural energies from wind, sun, soil, plants and microorganisms living in the wetlands, the water is cleaned of contaminants. Early designs used single treatment units, often a pond with plants, but resulted in varying efficiency as not all chemicals could be removed in a single unit. A wide range of conditions are required to eliminate multiple chemicals, e.g. different pH, redox or plant densities.

Current approaches use multiple treatment units, each dedicated to one removal process, such as photodegradation in open-water ponds, or biodegradation in vegetated wetlands.

What are the applications for your research? 

This research impacts storm water systems as well as municipal, industrial and agricultural wastewaters. By better characterizing the hydrological, physical, chemical and microbial processes governing contaminant levels in various passive water treatment systems, we can propose efficient, affordable and low-maintenance designs.

Brent Sleep: Cleaning up contaminated soil

Across the Canadian landscape sit thousands of forgotten sites that once housed industrial operations. These places, known as brownfields, suffer a tainted legacy of contaminated soil and groundwater that prevent their re-use and can threaten the surrounding environment.

14153165189_4ab1ceeeb6_kMost sites are contaminated by chemicals like chlorinated solvents, hydrocarbons, creosotes and coal tars, which can be difficult to remove. Just one litre of trichloroethene, a common industrial cleaner, can contaminate three million litres of groundwater. The worst aspect – these pollutants can persist for centuries in underground water sources.

Prof. Brent Sleep and his Innovative Technologies for Groundwater Remediation research team work with the Institute for Water Innovation to address this challenge. Like a medicinal cocktail designed to defeat an aggressive infection, the group is investigating the enhanced effect that combining two or more different remedial technologies can have on contaminant removal.

Individually, innovative technologies like chemical oxidation, electro-kinetics, thermal remediation, and bioremediation can remove large amounts of contaminating particles. Real-world contamination, however, is highly complex. “Partnering complementary technologies addresses site complexities,” the group writes, “targeting both areas of very high contaminant concentration and areas of low – but still toxic – concentration.”

Sleep’s work aims to make brownfield cleanup more efficient, more cost-effective and more wide-spread.

Lesley Warren: Aqueous and microbial geochemistry

The largest workforce in mining isn’t found in any field camp or office tower. They aren’t wearing safety gear or business suits. They won’t be seen or heard, but their effect on mining operations can be profound. They are naturally-occurring microbes, and they are constantly influencing the water and soil environment.

Lesley-Warren1“Bacteria are present in every aspect of mining, but we don’t fully understand the impacts they can have on water quality,” says Prof. Lesley Warren, an aqueous and microbial geochemist with the Lassonde Institute of Mining and Dept. of Civil Engineering.

Warren aims to determine the identities and roles of microbes in order to gain an understanding of the bacteria’s beneficial—and detrimental—processes. Her research enables the development of effective biological tools for water quality management with industrial applications.

“Acid mine drainage is the number one priority pollution issue for the mining industry on a global scale,” said Warren. “It refers to the creation of acidic water. When sulfide minerals are exposed to water and air, sulfuric acid is generated through a natural, microbial-driven chemical reaction.”

Better understanding of the ecology of the microorganisms that are taking part in this process will help industry alleviate – or even prevent – polluting processes from occurring in the future.

Robert C Andrews: high-tech solutions for cleaner, safer drinking water

Professor Robert C Andrews (left) with Profs. Ron Hofmann and Susan Andrews in the Drinking Water Environmental Labs

Recipient of the Dr. Albert E Berry Medal for outstanding contributions to environmental engineering

Professor Robert C Andrews (left) with Profs. Ron Hofmann and Susan Andrews in the Drinking Water Environmental Labs

Prof. Robert C Andrews, PEng, of the Drinking Water Research Group (DWRG) in the University of Toronto’s Civil Engineering Department, accepted the Dr. Albert E Berry Medal at a Canadian Society for Civil Engineers gala on Friday, June 3. The award, determined by a jury of peers, recognized the work and impact that Andrews’ research has on drinking water.

“I have such great respect for my peers, and to be selected by them to receive this award is such an honour,” said Andrews. “Our work, with industry and municipal partners helps provide clean drinking water to millions of consumers.”

The DWRG has over 25 projects ongoing at any one time. These include collaborative research in the application of membranes to drinking water treatment and examining the potential to remove emerging compounds including pharmaceuticals. Andrews also examines the use of alternative disinfectants for drinking water treatment, which has produced a baseline of knowledge that was previously lacking. The Ontario Ministry of the Environment has incorporated this data into their disinfection regulations.

Andrews began his career at the University in 1993 in the Department of Civil Engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, where his research interests included the examination of technologies for removing emerging contaminants in drinking water as well as the reduction of risk that they pose to consumers. Andrews has held an NSERC Senior Industrial Research Chair in Drinking Water Research since 2007.

A consultant as well as a professor, Andrews serves on a number of decision-making committees and advisory councils in Canada and around the world. Health Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Environment and the Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Council have all benefitted from his expertise.

Andrews is the recipient of the Dr. Albert E Berry Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Environmental Engineering by the Canadian Society for Civil Engineers, which recognizes outstanding achievements in environmental engineering; by protecting public health and the environment while preserving our air, water and land resources for future generations.