Collaborative research to advance sustainability
Professor David Simakov is developing innovative technologies to solve complex environmental challenges
Professor David Simakov is developing innovative technologies to solve complex environmental challengesBy Nicola Kelly Faculty of Engineering
David Simakov, a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, is actively engaged in two bold interdisciplinary collaborations with Canadian and international partners to advance UN Sustainable Development Goals. These initiatives are focused on two areas: affordable clean energy and clean water. Simakov’s research focuses on the conversion of CO2 into renewable synthetic fuels and sustainable hydrogen generation.
“Building a sustainable future will require developing a portfolio of renewable energy-based technologies that will ultimately allow us to decarbonize our energy, transportation and industrial sectors,” Simakov says.
“Such a challenging task can only be achieved through interdisciplinary collaboration, integrating knowledge and expertise of researchers from different universities across Canada and internationally. Using the unique expertise of each team of researchers, we are developing novel technologies and design highly efficient processes for renewable fuels applications.”
Climate change and unsustainable water management are causing freshwater shortages globally making water desalination a crucial technology. Simakov’s group is collaborating with researchers from Technion-Israel Institute of Technology through the Waterloo-Technion cooperation program. Matthey Suss, a professor in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at Technion, is developing a novel technology for water purification which is called a desalination fuel cell (DFC). Michael Patrascu, from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Technion is focusing on process intensification.
Anik Ashirwadam, a chemical engineering student in Simakov’s group, is developing a reactor that will convert a methanol/water mixture into hydrogen gas that is required to power the DFC device. A catalytic material within the reactor catalyzes the methanol reforming reaction, which produces hydrogen that can be directly fed to the DFC device to simultaneously produce clean water and generate electricity — creating an excellent solution for off-grid locations and remote communities.
Ashirwadam is also developing catalysts and running reactor tests to optimize hydrogen generation and examine how the system behaves under various operating conditions. Once the catalyst and reactor have been optimized, the Technion team will integrate the reactor with the DFC device that uses methanol, which will then be converted to hydrogen to power their desalinization technology.
Simakov is also collaborating with Professor Samir H. Mushrif from the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Alberta. Simakov is developing technologies to convert CO2 into high-value products such as syngas, which can ultimately be converted into a variety of renewable fuels and chemicals, including diesel, jet fuel and methanol. Simakov’s research group is working on designing the most effective catalyst for this CO2-to-syngas conversion.
Mushrif ‘s research focuses on the fundamental understanding of the catalyst structure and reaction mechanisms using density functional theory (DFT). The basis of the collaboration with Mushrif’s group is to connect the theoretical simulations using DFT with the expertise of Simakov’s group in advanced materials. Kishore Kandasamy, a Waterloo graduate student in Simakov’s group, is working to enhance the performance of the catalyst.
Using the theoretical data from Mushrif’s group, Simakov’s group can better understand why the catalyst behaves in certain ways and identify the chemical structures that allow the catalyst to have improved performance. This data also guides future work aimed at maximizing CO2 conversion efficiency.
Collaborations in chemical engineering can advance sustainability by integrating the development of advanced materials with reaction engineering, reactor design and process optimization for renewable fuel applications. Simakov’s collaborative research will help further advance innovative solutions to solve complex environmental challenges.
The University of Waterloo acknowledges that much of our work takes place on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples. Our main campus is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land granted to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River. Our active work toward reconciliation takes place across our campuses through research, learning, teaching, and community building, and is co-ordinated within the Office of Indigenous Relations.