Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Goretty Dias and Anna Klinkova

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

In 2019, the WIN membership expanded beyond the Faculties of Science, Engineering and Mathematics to welcome the first researcher from the Faculty of Environment. Goretty Dias is a sustainability scientist and industrial ecologist and is an associate professor in the School of Environment, Enterprise and Development.  

With her background in natural sciences and engineering, Professor Dias’ research has evolved to focus on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and other tools to create more sustainable agriculture, bioproduct, and food systems. In 2017, Professor Dias published a popular article which provided an environmental and economic overview of pyrolysis technologies for converting ligno-cellulosic biomass into biofuels and other bioproducts.

Figure a
On the left: a collection of TEM images of nanocrystals demonstrating precision with which Prof. Klinkova’s lab can control its size, shape, surface morphology, and surface chemistry. On the right: Cartonistic diagram showing a proposed sustainable eco-system which converts waste into valueadded chemicals using waste CO2, sunlight, renewable electricity as inputs and water as by-product.

In 2019, a research collaboration began between Dias and Assistant Professor/Early Career Researcher Anna Klinkova from the Department of Chemistry on the conversion of industrial pollutants into value-added products. Specifically, CO2 and nitrogen-based pollutants, such as ammonia, can be turned into specialty chemicals and nitrogen fertilizer, contributing to the growth and goals of a circular economy.  

Figure b
Many researchers around the world are primarily focusing on the direct electrochemical conversion of CO2 into various chemicals such as fuels or feedstock for other useful materials (formate, formaldehyde, formic acid, methane, methanol, ethanol, etc). However, such substances are usually lowerpriced commodities, and many conversion processes are proving to be economically disadvantaged in terms of scale-up costs. Building on the results first published by Klinkova’s lab in ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng. in 2019, this joint project focuses on advancing electrochemical methods to convert CO2 via electrocarboxylation in an electrolyzer operating with non-sacrificial anodes. In this approach, CO2 is made to react with other lower value substances that are readily available at the industrial scale, resulting in the production of industrially relevant carboxylic acids. To further improve the commercial potential of this CO2 reduction approach, Professor Klinkova’s lab has demonstrated that coupling this chemistry with anodic oxidation of wastewater components is a means to minimize energy requirements of operating the electrolyser, while introducing additional environmental benefit.

Researcher Profiles: 

Anna and team
Professor Anna Klinkova received her undergraduate degree from Saint Petersburg State University in 2009 in organic chemistry, followed by a master’s degree in photochemical sciences from Bowling Green State University in 2011, sparking her interest in chemistry for sustainable energy generation, studying alloy and hybrid semiconductor nanocrystals for incorporation into solar cell devices. She continued her graduate studies on nanomaterials chemistry in the Kumacheva group at the University of Toronto, earning a doctorate in Chemistry in 2015, followed by a prestigious Connaught Postdoctoral Fellowship with the Sargent group in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, also at the University of Toronto. Professor Klinkova joined the University of Waterloo in 2017, where her research goals are to build functional (electro) catalytic devices for energy and sustainability needs, and studying the effects of nanocrystals for their physiochemical properties for thermal, photo, and electrocatalysis. 

Goretty Dias
Professor Goretty Dias received her undergraduate degree from University of Guelph in 1993 and a PhD in Atmospheric science in 1998. In her undergraduate degree, she was introduced to the concept of how biology and associated mass and energy fluxes influence the atmosphere, which led to her work on spectroscopic methods to measure trace gases from agriculture for her PhD. During her post-doctoral work on metals and trace gases in Environmental Engineering, she became interested in the importance of economics, business, and policy on decisionmaking, and turned to life cycle thinking and LCA as a way of evaluating and communicating environmental impacts in a holistic way. She worked for five years in consulting, working on evaluating technology projects. Her academic and consulting experience has made her an expert in the LCA of biomass systems. She joined the Faculty of Environment in 2010 and has been working on evaluating systems and technologies related to biofuels, bioproducts, and food. She has been expanding her LCA work to other systems, such as construction materials and green chemicals, through collaborations with engineers and scientists at various universities.