Three Science projects receive New Frontiers in Research Funds for Exploration

This year, New Frontiers in Research Funds (NFRF) in Exploration will support three innovative and interdisciplinary research projects in the Faculty of Science. Projects include a novel approach to generating the entangled photons necessary for quantum technology, a pharmaceutical lab-on-a-chip that mimics the blood-brain barrier and the development of artificial intelligence capable of synthesizing new materials. 

Alexandre Brolo (Chemistry) and Rogério de Sousa (Physics) are exploring a low-cost, low-power molecular approach to generate entangled photons, a key resource for the development of quantum technology. Quantum technology has the potential to solve problems that are intractable today, transforming communication and computation as we know it.  But its development has been limited by the ability to efficiently generate an essential component: entangled photons. The current method requires high-powered laser systems and produces an extremely low yield. The team will take a molecular approach to this problem, combining the lab’s expertise in surface chemistry, nanotechnology, photonics, quantum computing, and quantum optics.

Katherine Elvira (Chemistry) will be revolutionizing the way the pharmaceutical industry develops drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease using lab-on-a-chip (microfluidic) technologies. The brain is one of the most highly protected organs in the body, so designing drugs that can penetrate the blood-brain barrier is a continual challenge.  Elvira will be building lab-on-a-chip technologies, to determine how each component of these cells affects the functioning of drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
Makhsud Saidaminov (Chemistry / Electrical and Chemical Engineering) is teaming up with the Voznyy group at the University of Toronto to teach a machine the principles of materials science (e.g., stability, synthesizability, electronic and optical properties, reactivity, etc.). They will then ask the machine to predict and synthesize new materials with desired properties. While there are many potential implications for this technology, the most immediate goal of this project is to build solar energy technologies that don’t rely on toxic heavy metals.

NFRF Exploration grants support high risk, high reward and interdisciplinary research and seeks to inspire projects that bring disciplines together beyond traditional disciplinary or common interdisciplinary approaches.

Read the NFRF for Exploration news release

View the list of funded projects