CBB member Norman Zhou wins the prestigious Synergy Award for Innovation from NSERC

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Norman Zhou
Congratulations to Professor Norman Zhou, who has been recognised nationally as the winner of the prestigious Synergy Award for Innovation from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), a prize that comes with a $200,000 research grant. He is one of four winners across the country and was cited in a category for productive collaborations between academics and two or more Canadian industrial partners. The collaborators, Huys Industries, ArcelorMittal Dofasco and the International Zinc Association - share the award with Zhou and will each receive $30,000 vouchers to go towards future research partnerships. Over the past 24 years he has made significant contributions in many areas of engineering and his inquisitive nature has led to advancements in fields including nanomaterials fabrication and laser processing of shape memory alloys.

I’m constantly wondering ‘why’ and ‘what if’ when it comes to many things in life and my research.


Norman Zhou is a mechanical and mechatronics engineering professor who is cross-appointed to electrical and computer engineering. He is also the Canada Research Chair (Tier I) in Advanced Materials Joining and Processing and is the associate director of the Centre for Advanced Materials Joining (CAMJ) at the University of Waterloo. CAMJ has developed next-generation technologies for joining and processing advanced materials that enable the assembly and manufacture of structures and devices for many industries including automotive, aerospace, electronics and medical. "Collaborating with over 55 local and international organizations, CAMJ has been a key player, influencing industry trends while representing Canada's interests on the world stage," NSERC said in its citation, stressing benefits to the economy including increased hiring and investment in local manufacturing.

We won’t stop - our research has limitless potential. It’s continuous learning for my students and for me, so we will continue to push the boundaries wherever we can.

norman zhou

In 2019, research by Zhou and CBB member, Professor George Shaker, was used to launch AquaSensing, which designs environment-friendly leak detection systems for industrial applications and healthcare. One of the first commercial products developed by AquaSensing was a low-cost, batteryless and maintenance-free water leak sensor for use in residential and industrial buildings. The company’s technology is also being used to create smart adult diapers featuring instant incontinence notifications to caregivers, and smart bandages, which would upload to the cloud lactate and glucose biomarkers, measurement and analysis.

More than a decade ago, Zhou and Ibraheem Khan (PhD ’10, mechanical engineering), then a mechanical engineering doctoral candidate, invented a process for manufacturing “smart materials” that can embed multiple memories into a single piece. Traditional memory material “remembers” only one shape per temperature. Their method enables the material to remember many more. The patented technology is now revolutionizing devices such as stents, pacemakers, hard drives and dental braces. Zhou and Khan co-founded Smart Alloys, which today has a world-class research and development facility for designing, prototyping, testing and characterizing shape memory alloy materials. Located in Cambridge, the company is led by Khan.

Honoured to receive an NSERC Synergy Award for Innovation, Zhou said his work has benefited from collaboration with exceptional colleagues, industry partners and students throughout his career.

This article was originally published on the Waterloo News website.