UVic Research in Materials Science & Oceans gets $5 Million Boost

University of Victoria researchers will develop one of the highest resolution microscopes ever constructed and the world’s first integrated seafloor engineering laboratory, thanks to two grants totalling just under $5 million announced earlier this week by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

“We’re delighted that CFI has funded two projects that will strengthen UVic’s leadership role in materials science and oceans research,” says Dr. Martin Taylor, UVic’s vice-president research. “Both projects involve world-class, pioneer technologies that will attract national and international research collaborations and provide rich training opportunities for the next generation of scientists and engineers.”

Mechanical engineer Rodney Herring will use a $4-million grant to construct a scanning transmission electron holography microscope facility. The specialized microscope uses electron beams and holography technology to observe and image the inside and outside of materials, to an expected resolution as small as one-fiftieth the size of an atom.

“It will reveal to us the atomic structure and the types and number of atoms in a specimen and allow us to measure its properties with great precision,” says Herring, a materials scientist and engineer who specializes in microscopy methods. “These properties are used by scientists and engineers to develop new devices and materials at the molecular, or nanoscale, level.”

The microscope will take two to three years to build, in partnership with the private sector. It will be used by a wide range of researchers across Canada and around the world to investigate new materials in areas as diverse as manufacturing, electronics, biotechnology, fuel cell technology, construction, and defence.

“This microscope will be a unique instrument that will put Canada at the forefront internationally in research focused at the nanoscale level,” says Herring.

The second CFI grant, totalling $992,684, goes to Colin Bradley, also in the mechanical engineering department, for the establishment of an ocean technologies test bed. The seafloor “laboratory” will allow engineers to develop and test the next generation of technologies such as autonomous underwater vehicles, and navigation and communication systems.

The test bed will enable a broad range of future applications, such as the emerging development of cabled ocean observatory systems, scientific instrument prototyping, and basic marine science.

“It will be a first-of-a-kind,” says Bradley. “It will offer engineering research opportunities that don’t exist anywhere else, and allow collaborative work from any location across the country or around the world.”

The test bed will be accessible to Canadian and international researchers through the UVic-led VENUS (Victoria Experimental Network Under the Sea) ocean observatory in Saanich Inlet. VENUS is the world’s first interactive real-time portal into the ocean, with live instrument readings and archived data available via the Internet. A second leg of VENUS will be installed in the Strait of Georgia in 2007.

“This test bed builds on and extends the capabilities of VENUS and will further enhance UVic’s position in the vanguard of new research and technology development for the oceans,” adds Bradley.

The new technologies will be applicable to NEPTUNE Canada (the North-East Pacific Time-series Undersea Networked Experiments) project, also led by UVic. Scheduled for installation in 2007-08, NEPTUNE Canada will lay 800 km of cable and scientific instruments in the deep ocean off BC. It will be the world’s first regional cabled ocean observatory.

The two grants are part of a national CFI funding announcement made earlier this week. The CFI is an independent corporation created by the federal government to strengthen the research capacity of Canadian universities and research institutions to carry out world-class research and technology development.

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Media contacts

Rodney Herring (Mechanical Engineering) at 250-721-8934 or rherring@me.uvic.ca

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Keywords: oceans, funding, Ocean Networks Canada, CFI

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