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Project grants promote partnerships

Two Queen’s researchers have received Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Strategic Project Grants.

Cathleen Crudden (Chemistry, $596,870) and her team are working on the production of hydrogen from water using solar energy. James Fraser (Physics, $408,914) and his team are improving the 3D laser manufacturing process.

Both hydrogen and oxygen need to be generated in water-splitting approaches for the generation of hydrogen fuel in the automotive industry. Dr. Crudden’s team including J. Hugh Horton (Chemistry), Pierre Kennepohl (University of British Columbia), Heinz-Bernhard Kraatz (University of Toronto) and Martin Albrecht (UCD Ireland) is designing a supported catalyst, a substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected, to help complete the cycle for hydrogen generation.

“The development of viable catalysts for production of hydrogen from water using solar energy is the holy grail of energy research, and when accomplished, will revolutionize the way we generate energy, and virtually eliminate pollution from the transportation sector,” says Dr. Crudden.

Dr. Fraser is working in the field of 3D laser writing. The process scans an intense focused laser beam over a material (such as metal powder) to create a 3D metal component layer by layer directly from a computer drawing. Dr. Fraser is trying to improve this often imperfect technique.

“This type of manufacturing builds a part up layer by layer and is generally slow,” says Dr. Fraser. “If there is a defect in an early layer, for example an air gap, this might not be detected until the part was completed. The challenge is that there is a lot going on in the laser melting process –hundreds of watts of laser light, glowing liquid steel, occasional sparks and powder being ejected— so it is challenging to see with micron precision.”

To combat this problem, Dr. Fraser’s team will create and use a coherent imaging technique that views the sample through the same lens that the processing laser uses and can measure the location and changes to the surface of the part. This will reduce the component processing time. The funding also allows the training of nine researchers and students in a key field in Canadian manufacturing.

For more information on the Strategic Project Grants visit the NSERC website.