Faculty researchers awarded $900K from government

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Seven Waterloo Engineering faculty members will receive a combined total of $900,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to carry out world-class research that will help solve real-world problems.

Their research projects range from collaborative robots for human support, solutions to improve indoor air quality, magnetic microrobots for specific medical applications and an infrared hyperspectral camera to quantify greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr. Yue Hu: Professor, Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering awarded $100,000 

Dual-arm Mobile Manipulation: Human-centered Interaction for Human Spaces 

Hu’s research project aims to enhance the capabilities of service and collaborative robots for operating in human environments (e.g., long-term care facilities, factories), by focusing on both physical and psychological safety. The project aims to develop innovative control frameworks that enable robots to adapt to the physical and mental state of humans using a combination of human factors, robot control and machine learning. 

Dr. Cosmin Munteanu: Professor, Systems Design Engineering awarded $80,000 

Emerging Natural Interactive Technologies to Support Older Adults' Social Connections and Digital Inclusion 

Emerging technologies, such as Virtual Reality (VR) or Voice Interfaces, have the potential to support older adults’ social interactions through natural and immersive experiences. Yet, these are largely not designed for, nor with, older adults. New approaches are needed to ensure novel technology does not marginalize older adults and further their social isolation. Munteanu’s research proposes codesign methods for socially connecting voice-enabled VR experiences that give older adults ownership over the design process and empower them as content creators. 

Dr. Milad Kamkar: Professor, Chemical Engineering awarded $80,000 

Engineering Multifunctional All-Liquid Soft Materials and Ultra-light Weight Aerogels 

Kamkar’s focus is on developing materials with tailored functionalities for challenging applications. Kamkar and his team achieve this by controlling material characteristics via nano-scale chemistry, micro-scale assembly, and macro-scale additive manufacturing techniques. One of their notable achievements is their newly introduced manufacturing techniques to structure shapeless and flowing liquid-like suspensions. These liquids are based on a variety of nanomaterials. Kamkar and his team will then transform these structured liquids into ultra-lightweight aerogels that find applications in advanced fields and help address pressing environmental challenges. 

Dr. Tianyuan (Amy) Li: Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering awarded $100,000 

An Indoor Air Quality and Occupant Exposure Testing and Monitoring Laboratory

Canadians spend 90 per cent of their time indoors, so ensuring clean indoor air is crucial. Li and her team are building a cutting-edge research facility to study indoor air pollutants and their interactions with buildings and occupant activities. By investigating the effect of mitigation measures, they seek to develop new strategies that improve air quality while conserving building energy use. This research aims to improve the health and comfort of all Canadians in their living and working spaces. 

Dr. Veronika Magdanz: Professor, Systems Design Engineering awarded $80,000 

Imaging System for the Development of Medical Microrobots 

Magdanz’s research aims to develop a wireless magnetic microrobots for specific medical applications. Specifically, the research goal is to achieve active, targeted drug and cell delivery, as well as minimal invasive surgery with the help of biohybrid and biomimicking flexible robots. The main benefits of such biohybrid and bioinspired robots include remote controlled, tetherless action and adaptability to physiological environments. 

This innovative approach has the potential to revolutionize medical applications by offering a highly targeted, action with less side effects. The main tasks in this project towards this long-term goal include the development and testing of the medical microrobots in a lab environment regarding their biocompatibility, structural integrity, precision control in 3D and therapeutic action. The requested system provides a platform for these in depth biological and micro robotic studies and will help validate the microrobots for their potential medical purpose.  

Dr. Evelyn Yim: Professor, Chemical Engineering awarded $163,000 

Live-imaging Confocal Microscopy of Dynamic Process for Regenerative Medicine Application and Biotechnology Development 

Regenerative medicine has been a promising strategy in developing engineered functional tissue for transplantation and in vitro models for drug discovery and disease studies. The global regenerative medicine market size was valued at USD $27.29 billion in 2020. An ideal regenerative medicine solution should present the biomimicking stimuli to regulate cellular responses. Yim and her team aim to create biomaterials platforms to study the cell-materials interactions for the development of regenerative medicine solution. Using corneal and vascular applications as the focus areas, the long-term goal of Yim’s research is to develop novel regenerative medicine approaches for treating diseases.  

Dr. Kyle Daun: Professor, Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering awarded $300,000 

Hyperspectral Imaging for Quantifying Methane from Anthropogenic and Natural Sources 

Climate change is causing mass starvations, mass extinctions and growing social inequity, since its effects are most profoundly felt by equity-seeking groups. Methane is a particular concern since its global warming potential is approximately 100 times that of carbon dioxide over a 20-year span. Daun’s proposed equipment is an infrared hyperspectral camera that generates thousands of near simultaneous images, each at a distinct wavelength.  

Waterloo researchers will transform this instrument into a highly accurate tool to quantify emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases from industrial sources, landfills and wetlands. Canadian industry will used this tool to improve their sustainability and avoid penalties under emerging environmental regulations. Data from this instrument will help derive more accurate climate change models, which legislators will use to develop effective policy, land use practices and environmental laws to reduce emissions and safeguard our future.  

Around 290 Waterloo researchers will receive more than $38.4 million from the Government of Canada to support their research.

Go to Waterloo researchers awarded more than $38.4 million for the full story.