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l’actualité chimique canadienne canadian chemical news ACCN

june|juin • 2010 • Vol. 62, No./n o 6

Where the Rubber Hits the Road Auto Innovation in Canada

second in a three-part series

Travel for the Chemically Inclined | Weighing in on the Oil Spill 

AChemical PublicationInstitute of the Chemical Institute of Canada and its Constituent Societies / Une publication de l’institut de chimie du canada et ses sociétés constituantes of Canada


JUne|juin • 2010 • Vol. 62, No./n o 6


Second in a three part series 12 InnovationorBust: Where the rubber hits the road – Canadian auto technology competes

By Tim Lougheed

13 20 Departments 5

From the Editor De la rédactrice en chef


Guest Column Chroniqueur invité

23 the Limit 16 Pressing A chemical engineer weighs in on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill

Pour obtenir la version française de cet article, écrivez-nous à

By Peter Calamai from the Science Media Centre of Canada


Chemical News Actualité chimique


Society News Nouvelles des sociétés



By Joe Schwarcz

Tourism 20 Chemical The world’s hotspots for the chemically inclined

Pour obtenir la version française de cet article, écrivez-nous à

From the editor De la rédactrice en chef

ACCN Executive Director/Directeur général Roland Andersson, MCIC Editor/Rédactrice en chef Jodi Di Menna Graphic Designers/Infographistes Krista Leroux Kelly Turner Communications manager/ Directrice des communications Lucie Frigon Marketing Manager/ Directrice du marketing Bernadette Dacey Staff Writer/rédactrice Anne Campbell, MCIC


he recent catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has the potential to rattle one’s faith: faith in governments to regulate risky activities, faith in human ingenuity to fix a problem when it arises and faith in our ability to control the forces of nature through technology. For this issue’s Q and A, we spoke with Miriam Diamond from the University of Toronto, who is both an environmental scientist and a chemical engineer, to get her opinion on when pushing the frontiers of technology crosses over into pushing our luck. Writer Tim Lougheed continues his series on innovation in this country, this time delving into how Canadian companies are ahead of the game in improving one of the world's most taken-forgranted inventions: the automobile. And for those of you whose summer vacation plans are still up in the air, in this issue we present some of the world’s most intriguing tourist destinations for travellers bent on the chemical sciences. ACCN I hope you enjoy the read!

Awards and Local Sections Manager/ Directrice des prix et des sections locales Gale Thirlwall Editorial Board/Conseil de rédaction Joe Schwarcz, MCIC, chair/président Cathleen Crudden, MCIC Milena Sejnoha, MCIC Bernard West, MCIC Editorial Office/ Bureau de la rédaction 130, rue Slater Street, Suite/bureau 550 Ottawa, ON K1P 6E2 T. 613-232-6252 • F./Téléc. 613-232-5862 • Advertising/Publicité Subscription Rates/Tarifs d’abonnement Non CIC members/Non-membres de l’ICC : in/au Canada CAN$60; outside/à l’extérieur du Canada US$60. Single copy/Un exemplaire CAN$10 or US$10. ACCN (L’Actualité chimique canadienne/Canadian Chemical News) is published 10 times a year by the Chemical Institute of Canada / est publié 10 fois par année par l’Institut de chimie du Canada. Recommended by the Chemical Institute of Canada (CIC), the Canadian Society for Chemistry (CSC), the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering (CSChE), and the Canadian Society for Chemical Technology (CSCT). Views expressed do not necessarily represent the official position of the Institute or of the societies that recommend the magazine.

Jodi Di Menna Editor

Write to the editor at

Recommandé par l’Institut de chimie du Canada, la Société canadienne de chimie, la Société canadienne de génie chimique et la Société canadienne de technologie chimique. Les opinions exprimées ne reflètent pas nécessairement la position officielle de l’Institut ou des sociétés qui soutiennent le magazine. Change of Address/ Changement d’adresse Printed in Canada by Delta Printing and postage paid in Ottawa, Ont./ Imprimé au Canada par Delta Printing et port payé à Ottawa, Ont. Publications Mail Agreement Number/ No de convention de la Poste-publications : 40021620. (USPS# 0007-718) Indexed in the Canadian Business Index and available online in the Canadian Business and Current Affairs database. / Répertorié dans le Canadian Business Index et accessible en ligne dans la banque de données Canadian Business and Current Affairs. ISSN 0823-5228

Guest Column Chroniqueur invité

Catalyzing the News


hink of the Science Media Centre of Canada as a catalyst. The SMCC is intended to improve the speed and productivity of interactions between journalists and researchers but also to not be consumed in the process. It will accomplish this primarily by putting journalists in touch with experts in various research fields who have indicated a willingness and an ability to communicate in lay terms. These experts will be drawn from the Centre’s cross-Canada database now being compiled in cooperation with universities, research institutes, professional societies, specialized science reporters, government departments, private industry and non-government organizations. The experts will provide factual comment about breaking news stories which have a scientific component (i.e. dangers of volcanic ash clouds), take part in Centre-organized briefings about important research findings and respond to media inquiries about the scientific aspects of developments locally. The Centre, with offices initially planned for Toronto, Ottawa and Montréal, will cover the entire research gamut — natural, life and social sciences, health, environment, engineering and technology. Other Science Media Centres have been performing a similar catalytic function in the U.K. since 2002, in Australia since 2005 and in New Zealand since 2009. Two more such centres are scheduled to start this summer in Denmark and Japan. While independent of one another, all the centres subscribe to the same goal of improving the coverage of science issues by the mass media with their methods and programs tailored to the differing national circumstances. The Canadian Centre is scheduled to begin operating in September, after a two-year start-up which included an independent feasibility study and business plan, financial support from 80-plus Charter Members, the appointment of research and editorial advisory groups, recruitment of a blue-ribbon board of directors and hiring of an executive director and two staffers. Details of the operations are available at

Peter Calamai The Science Media Centre of Canada is coming into existence in the midst of unprecedented upheaval in the traditional mass media. Staff reductions and a greater emphasis on local coverage in response to Internet-based competition mean far fewer newspapers or broadcasting operations can call upon reporters with experience covering science, health or the environment. It is estimated that there are no more than three dozen such specialized reporters in staff positions in Canadian mass media compared to twice as many several decades ago. Accepting the thinning of the ranks of specialist reporters as unavoidable for the immediate future, the Science Media Centre of Canada is targeting its services primarily at what are known as General Assignment reporters. These GA reporters will often be called upon to report and produce two, three or even four items in a day ranging from neighbourhood fears of radiation from cell phone towers to the efforts of local health officials to deal with H1N1 flu. Until now their main information resource for such varied topics has too often been Wikipedia and the chief finding tool for “experts” likely to be a Google search. In the fields of chemistry, like many others, these approaches can be strewn with pitfalls and lead to misleading information and ill-founded views being published and broadcast in traditional media and thus gaining credibility. In helping journalists to avoid such pitfalls, the Science Media Centre of Canada nonetheless intends to be self-effacing. It will work closely with the communications staff at universities and research agencies in arranging media briefings and assisting where requested. Experts will be identified by their institutional affiliations and not as SMCC representatives. Like an invisible catalyst in chemical reactions, the main clue to the involvement of the SMCC should be that things work more efficiently.

ACCN Veteran science journalist Peter Calamai was a founding director of the Science Media Centre of Canada and is a communications consultant and freelance magazine writer based in Ottawa.

Want to share your thoughts on this article? Write to us at

June 2010 Canadian Chemical News  7

Chemical Institute of Canada

Get Involved in IYC 2011 now! Share your ideas with the Chemical Institute of Canada Contact your Local Section Talk to your local industries and to departments at universities and colleges Touch base with your local high schools Think of media in your area that might be interested For details about IYC in Canada, visit


8   L’Actualité chimique canadienne

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Chemical News Actualité chimique

A Drink to Good Health One researcher at Memorial University is hoping to show that green tea polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), may prevent colon cancer and render anti-viral effects when combined with certain Omega 3 fatty acids. Fereidoon Shahidi explains that while green tea is a good antioxidant and is known to have anti-cancer effects, it is not without some shortcomings. “We know from experience that green tea is not well absorbed by the body,” he said. “Our premise was to see if by adding something to it that has its own benefits, like Omega 3 fatty acids, we might get an entity that would have improved properties in terms of its absorption and health benefits.” The research proved that it was indeed the case, but further testing on animals provided other surprising results. “When mice which had been exposed to carcinogens that usually produced significant numbers of tumours were given the green tea/Omega 3 compound at the same time there was absolutely no tumour formation,” said Shahidi. “That was quite exciting to us.” Memorial University

Let them Eat Eggs A University of Guelph food scientist has discovered a way to help children build a tolerance to food allergies. Professor Yoshinori Mine found that mice predisposed to an egg allergy became desensitized to the allergen after repeatedly ingesting only a portion of the protein known to trigger the allergic reaction. “By ingesting only the peptides and not the whole protein, the body suppresses the urge to react,” said Mine. “After repeated exposure, the body learns to accept the protein instead of trying to defend itself against it. This approach has huge promise for humans for providing a safer, more convenient approach to dealing with allergies in children.” In his study Mine uses a mouse model he developed that has an allergy to eggs. Mice can react with allergy symptoms ranging from a rash to death from anaphylaxis when fed eggs. As part of the study, he fed the mice multiple peptides of the egg protein that spurs allergic reactions. After six weeks, he had the

mice ingest the whole protein, which is what a child would ingest when eating eggs. Mine then monitored the mice for visible signs of an allergic reaction and also took blood and tissue samples to test the animals’ levels of histamine and immunoglobulin E — substances produced by the body to induce allergic reactions. Results showed that 80 per cent of the mice did not react and the other 20 per cent experienced only a mild allergic reaction. “When ingested, the multiple peptides help stimulate the body to make T-suppressor lymphocytes specific for allergen suppression. These lymphocytes retrain the body not to react to allergic substances.” University of Guelph

Custom Cancer Treatment In a major cancer-research breakthrough, researchers at McGill have discovered that a small segment of a protein that interacts with RNA can control the normal expression of genes — including those that are active in cancer. The research has important immediate applications for laboratory research and is another step toward the kind

of individualized cancer therapies researchers are pursuing vigorously around the world. Human cells need to produce the correct proteins at the right time and in the appropriate quantities to stay healthy. One of the key means by which cells achieve this control is by “RNA interference,” a form of gene silencing where small pieces of RNA, called micro RNAs, obstruct the production of specific proteins by interacting with their genetic code. However, not any piece of RNA can do this. The researchers used structural biology to unravel how a small segment in the Argonaute proteins, the key molecules of RNA interference, can select the correct micro RNAs. In doing so, the team has discovered that Argonaute proteins can potentially be exploited to enhance gene silencing. “RNA interference could be used as a viable therapeutic approach for inhibiting specific genes that are aberrantly active in diseases such as cancer,” lead researcher Bhushan Nagar said. “We now have a handle on being able to rationally modify micro RNAs to make them more efficient and possibly into therapeutic drugs.” McGill University


June 2010 Canadian Chemical News  9

Canadian Society for Chemistry

Nominations are now open for the

Canadian­Society for Chemistry

2011AWARDSAct now!

Do you know an outstanding person who deserves to be recognized? The Rio Tinto Alcan Award is presented to a scientist who has made a distinguished contribution­in the fields of inorganic chemistry or electrochemistry while working in Canada. Sponsored by Rio Tinto Alcan. Award: A framed scroll, a cash prize and travel expenses.

The Maxxam Award is presented to a scientist who has made a distinguished contribution in the field of analytical­ chemistry while working in Canada­. Sponsored by Maxxam Analytics Inc. Award: A framed scroll, a cash prize and travel expenses.

significant potential for practical applications. The award is open to new faculty members at a Canadian university. They must be recent graduates with six years of appointment. Sponsored by Eli Lilly Canada Inc. Award: A framed scroll, a cash prize, and travel expenses.

The Alfred Bader Award is presented as a mark of distinction and recognition for excellence in research in organic chemistry by a chemist who is currently working in Canada. Sponsored by Alfred Bader, HFCIC. Award: A framed scroll, a cash prize and travel expenses.

The R. U. Lemieux Award is presented to an organic chemist who has made a distinguished contribution to any area of organic chemistry and who is currently working in Canada. Sponsored by the Organic Chemistry Division. Award: A framed scroll, a cash prize and travel expenses.

The Strem Chemicals Award for Pure or Applied Inorganic Chemistry is presented to a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant­ who has made an outstanding contribution­to inorganic chemistry while working in Canada, and who is within ten years of his or her first professional appointment as an independent researcher in an academic, government­, or industrial sector. Sponsored by Strem Chemicals Inc. Award: A framed scroll and travel expenses for a lecture tour.

[REVISED] The Merck

The Keith Laidler Award is presented to a scientist who has made a distinguished contribution­in the field of physical chemistry while working in Canada­. The award recognizes early achievement­in the awardee­’s independent research career. Sponsored by the Physical, Theoretical and Computational Division. Award: A framed scroll.

The Boehringer Ingelheim Award is presented to a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant whose PhD thesis in the field of organic or bioorganic chemistry was formally­accepted by a Canadian university in the 12-month period preceding the nomination­deadline of July 2 and whose doctoral research is judged to be of outstanding quality. Sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd. Award: A framed scroll, a cash prize and travel expenses. The Clara Benson Award is presented in recognition of a distinguished contribution to chemistry by a woman while working in Canada. Sponsored by the Canadian Council of University Chemistry Chairs (CCUCC). Award: A framed scroll, a cash prize and travel expenses.

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Frosst Centre for Therapeutic Research Award is presented to a scientist

residing in Canada, who shall not have reached the age of 40 years by April 1 of the year of nomination and who has made a distinguished contribution in the fields of organic chemistry or biochemistry while working in Canada. Sponsored by the Organic Chemistry Division. Award: A framed scroll. The Bernard Belleau Award is presented to a scientist residing in Canada who has made a distinguished contribution to the field of medicinal chemistry through research­ involving biochemical or organic chemical mechanisms. Sponsored by Bristol Myers Squibb Canada Co. Award: A framed scroll and a cash prize. The John C. Polanyi Award is presented to a scientist for excellence in research in physical, theoretical or computational chemistry or chemical physics carried out in Canada. Sponsored by the Physical, Theoretical and Computational Division. Award: A framed scroll. The Fred Beamish Award is presented to an individual who demonstrates innovation in research in the field of analytical chemistry, where the research is anticipated to have

The W. A. E. McBryde Medal is presented to a young scientist working in Canada who has made a significant achievement in pure or applied­analytical chemistry. Sponsored by MDS Analytical Technologies. Award: A medal and a cash prize. The E. W. R. Steacie Award is presented to a scientist residing in Canada who has made a distinguished contribution to chemistry while working in Canada. Award: A framed scroll and travel expenses.

Deadline The deadline for all CSC awards is July 2, 2010 for the 2011 selection.

Nomination Procedure Submit your nominations to: Awards Manager Canadian Society for Chemistry 130 Slater Street, Suite 550 Ottawa, ON K1P 6E2 T. 613-232-6252, ext. 223 F. 613-232-5862

Nomination forms and the full Terms of Reference for these awards are available at

Chemical News Actualité chimique  Continuing

Two Benefits, One Switch A discovery that may pave the way to helping reduce health hazards such as E. coli in water could also make chemicals and drugs such as insulin cheaper to produce and their production more environmentally friendly. By creating a three-dimensional model, Queen’s researchers discovered exactly how the AceK protein acts as a switch in some bacteria to bypass the energyproducing cycle that allows bacteria like E. coli and salmonella to go into a survival mode and adapt to low-nutrient environments, such as water. The unique feature of this discovery is that the switching on and off take place in the same location of the protein. Normally these two opposing activities would happen in two different ‘active sites.’ The discovery opens the door for scientists to identify a molecule that can keep the bypass switch from turning on so bacteria will die in water. As a result, drinking water would be cleaner and the incident of water bacterial contamination could be reduced. Conversely, discovering a molecule to keep the bypass switch turned on could produce a supply of the bacteria biotechnology companies use to produce compounds, such as insulin. Instead of using glucose in the fermenting process, companies could use less nutritional and cheaper acetate. The cost difference would be tremendous and the process would produce less carbon dioxide making the process much more environmentally friendly.

Education for Chemical Professionals

Laboratory Safety course

2010 Schedule October 4 –5, 2010

Calgary, AB

Registration fees $550 CIC members $750 non-members $150 student members

Queen’s University


he Chemical Institute of Canada and the Canadian Society

for Chemical Technology are

presenting a two-day course designed

Industrial Briefs

to enhance the knowledge and working

Environment Canada and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) were set to sign an accord at the end of May to collaborate and share non-confidential chemicals data and information since Canadian legislation on chemicals regulation has broad similarities to the European Union's Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals program. ECHA representatives are hopeful that the two parties will eventually agree to share confidential information. Similar agreements are in the works between ECHA and the US and Australia.

the CIC’s Laboratory Health and Safety

Shell Canada announced in early June that it will permanently close its Montréal refinery and convert its operations to a distribution terminal after failing to secure a buyer for the 76-year old facility. Approximately 500 employees work at the refinery, which processes more than 130,000 barrels of crude oil daily. Montréal will be left with just one operating commercial refinery, owned by Suncor Energy Inc.

laboratories and chemical plants. During

Solvay Chemicals Inc. was fined $2.5 million by the Federal Court in May after pleading guilty to criminal charges for fixing the price of hydrogen peroxide sold in Canada. An investigation by the Competition Bureau revealed a conspiracy between Solvay and its competitors to fix the price of the chemical between July 1998 and December 1999. During that period, the company sold some $15 million worth of the chemical oxidant and bleaching agent which is used mostly in the pulp and paper industry. ACCN

experience of chemical technologists and chemists. All course participants receive Guidelines, 4th edition. This course is intended for those whose responsibilities include improving the operational safety of chemical laboratories, managing laboratories, chemical plants or research facilities, conducting safety audits of the course, participants are provided with an integrated overview of current best practices in laboratory safety.

For more information about the course and locations, and to access the registration form, visit:

 June 2010 Canadian Chemical News  11

Industry: Innovation

InnovationorBust This is the second in a three-part series in which writer Tim Lougheed looks at how chemical scientists are tackling the hurdles to innovation in Canada.

Where the rubber hits the road In spite of pessimism surrounding the North American car industry, chemical innovation can still be found under the hood.


loom swirls around Canada’s automobile industry like a plume of bad exhaust fumes. The news features shuttered plants and the people who no longer work there. Our governments pay out billions of dollars to prop up whatever production is left. The remains of this manufacturing sector would seem to be an unsustainable relic from our economic past. As our roads appear to fill up with vehicles made in other parts of the world, it is easy to believe that we can no longer compete in this arena. More aggressive players in places such as Korea and China are well on their way to dictating what we will drive. Before embracing this sad portrait, however, take a moment to reflect on the tires under your own vehicle. When was the last time you had a flat? Have you ever had a flat? Do you even know anyone who has had a flat? The question is not as frivolous as it sounds. Tire technology has radically transformed the wheels on which so many of us rely. Over the course of the last 30 years, the advent of steel belting and other reinforcing strategies has significantly enhanced the durability of this commodity. Today your mechanic will likely suggest replacing a tire because its tread has worn down, rather than a puncture forcing you to do so. This is no trivial accomplishment. For much of the past century of automotive history, tires were an Achilles heel of personal transportation. Yet because they now give us far less trouble than ever before, we have to remind ourselves of such remarkable progress. Nor are tires alone in demonstrating this progress. In the past generation, the personal car has been rebuilt from the ground up, in ways we seldom notice and in some cases can scarcely imagine.

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Tim Lougheed

Many of the most important but least noticeable of these improvements depend on new materials, as well as new methods of working with materials. For instance, magnesium alloys are yielding parts that are lighter than their steel equivalents would be, but with the same tensile strength and bonding characteristics. Replace enough steel

“There are no lemons on the road anymore.” components with magnesium ones and a vehicle’s fuel economy will improve considerably. Yet for drivers, nothing much has changed except how often they have to pull into a gas station. According to Dimitry Anastakis, an economic historian at Trent University, practically any new car will contain its fair share of this kind of innovation. Whatever your opinion about individual brands and models, the overall trend is unmistakable. “There are no lemons on the road anymore,” he argues. “It’s very hard to buy a car that’s not a good vehicle now. The standards have been raised so tremendously.” Anastakis has written a popular history of the rise of car culture within Canada, but much of his academic work has focused on the transformation of the country’s automobile industry since the 1960s. That decade witnessed the Automotive Products Trade Agreement, known popularly as the Auto Pact, which removed tariffs on everything from parts to finished vehicles passing between the United States and Canada.

While this foray into free trade may be criticized for ceding control of Canadian automobile manufacturing to Americanbased control, the move spawned a domestic parts industry that has become an international powerhouse in this field. At the head of the pack is Aurora, Ont.-based Magna International, which now employs some 72,000 people in 25 countries. By 2008 the firm was declaring more than $23 billion in annual sales. Perhaps more revealing is the fact that during that same year it was among just 19 Canadian firms whose R&D budgets topped $100 million. Only Nortel Networks and Bell Canada Enterprises spent more. Nevertheless, the results of Magna’s sizeable investment can be hard to see — literally. One of its most celebrated innovations in recent years has been the “Stow n’ Go” seat, which debuted in Chrysler minivans, in 2005. These seats incorporate a very high density foam so they can be as thin as possible, capable of being folded up and stored in a compartment flush with the floorboards, thereby freeing up a considerable amount of storage space. A crucial aspect of this design was the recessed storage tub into which these folded seats collapsed. This kind of opening can significantly increase noise levels within a vehicle, leading Magna to investigate the use of a patented material known as “Quiet Steel.” This product consists of a viscoelastic layer sandwiched between two cold-rolled layers of steel. Vehicle designers can “tune” this middle layer to dampen specific frequencies in any given application, so the chosen formulation could be adapted to the specific needs of any given minivan configuration. Magna has also patented its own system for injection molding magnesium in much the same way that plastics are typically formed. Using this technique, the underlying frame for a seat can be formed out of a single piece of metal. The resulting structure requires fewer manufacturing steps, thereby reducing costs; and by eliminating the need for fastening brackets or welds between different pieces,

the outcome is stronger and lighter than a conventional seat. Canadian innovations in alloy development are likewise of interest to another multi-national automobile parts manufacturer, Michigan-based Federal-Mogul. The

firm specializes in valve seat inserts and valve guides that operate in the harsh, demanding heart of internal cotmbustion engines. Working with researchers at Montréal’s École Polytechnique and Université Laval in Quebec City, Federal-Mogul is preparing to introduce

Bernard Tougas, a PhD student at the Université Laval pours molten metal to water-atomize steel in the process of making steel powder. June 2010 Canadian Chemical News  13

Chemical Institute of Canada

Nominations are now open for the

Chemical­Institute of Canada­

2011AWARDSAct now!

Do you know an outstanding person who deserves to be recognized?

The Chemical Institute of Canada­Medal is presented as a mark of distinction­and recognition to a person­who has made an outstanding contribution­to the science of chemistry­or chemical engineering in Canada­. Sponsored by the Chemical Institute of Canada. Award: A silver medal and travel expenses.

Environment Division Research and Development Award is


presented to a scientist or engineer residing in Canada who has made distinguished contributions to research and/or development in the fields of environmental chemistry or environmental chemical engineering. Sponsored by Pierre Beaumier. Award: A framed scroll, cash prize and travel expenses. The Montréal Medal is presented as a mark of distinction and honour to a resident­in Canada who has shown significant leadership in or has made an outstanding­contribution to the profession­of chemistry­or chemical engineering­in Canada. In determining the eligibility for nominations for the award, administrative contributions within the Chemical Institute of Canada

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and other professional organizations that contribute to the advancement of the professions of chemistry and chemical engineering shall be given due consideration. Contributions to the sciences of chemistry and chemical engineering are not to be considered. Sponsored­by the Montréal CIC Local Section and the Chemical Institute of Canada. Award: A medal and travel expenses.

Macromolecular Science and Engineering­Award is presented


to an individual who, while residing­ in Canada, has made a distinguished­ contribution to macromolecular­science or engineering. Sponsored by NOVA Chemicals Ltd. Award: A framed scroll, a cash prize, and travel expenses. The CIC Award for Chemical Education­ is presented as a mark of recognition­to a person­who has made an outstanding contribution in Canada to education at the post-secondary level in the field of chemistry­ or chemical­engineering­. Sponsored­by the CIC Chemical­ Education­ Fund. Award: A framed scroll and a cash prize.


The deadline for all CIC awards is July 2, 2010 for the 2011 selection.

Nomination Procedure Submit your nominations to: Awards Manager Chemical Institute of Canada 130 Slater Street, Suite 550 Ottawa, ON K1P 6E2 T. 613-232-6252, ext. 223 F. 613-232-5862

Nomination forms and the full Terms of Reference for these awards are available at

a new line of products made from a ferrousbased material formed through powder metallurgy. This technique begins with metal powders, which are then injected into a mold or die and subjected to high pressure and temperature. By sintering them in a lowoxygen environment at about 1,250 degrees C, atoms of iron mix more readily with key agents such as nickel, molybdenum, chromium, or manganese. The cost is higher than traditional shaping of such alloys would be, but as with Magna’s injection system, components made in this way have fewer potentially compromising bonds and require little or no finishing work. The collaboration between the university researchers and Federal-Mogul was struck through AUTO21, a federal research network based in Windsor, Ont., which has spent most of the past decade building similar links between industry and academia. Hundreds of faculty members and their graduate students across the country are engaged in projects that will fundamentally improve our vehicles, generally in ways most of us will never notice. For Doug Barber, distinguished professorin-residence, McMaster University, this kind of innovation in obscurity can be highly successful. The key, he explains, is the age-old necessity of ensuring that your customers are satisfied. When it comes to exotic alloying methodology, then, the

to say on the subject sounds all too straightforward, but he insists that innovation should remain a comparatively simple idea. “We call things innovation that have yet to demonstrate that they’re innovative,” he says. “Innovation is finding a way to improve my life. It’s not about how sexy or how scientific that way is. It isn’t innovation until the improvement is demonstrable.” Unfortunately, he adds, Canadians appear to be culturally biased toward thinking of all kinds of scientific or technological inventions

“Innovation is finding a way to improve my life. It’s not about how sexy or how scientific that way is.” as innovative, when they might in fact be no more than novelties. “We’re a country that values and hypes science and technology like no other developed country,” he says. “There’s a sense in which we think that the only value in something is the technology. We think that’s what wins us the marketplace. But in the end, nobody buys technology.” Whether or not we buy it, we have become enamoured of what technology could do for our cars, as evidenced by the long-running anticipation of fuel cell power systems. Yet this highly public enthusiasm for hydrogen-powered vehicles is tempered by significant challenges that remain to be overcome in the laboratory. Boyd Davis, an

The car is such an elegant, simple and amazing invention that it hasn’t changed its basic functioning for about 100 years. customers are not those of us visiting dealer showrooms; it is parts-makers like Magna and Federal-Mogul. Barber cut his teeth as a high tech entrepreneur, spending much of his career coming to grips with what we mean by “innovation” and why we have come to assign such high expectations to the notion. Much of what he has

Canadian companies leading the way toward superior designs. But he insists that the advent of a “hydrogen economy,” featuring cars powered by this element, will remain elusive until we find a cost-effective means of storing this low energy density gas. In the meantime, it will be hard to wean us from our current petroleum habit. Nor does that surprise Anastakis, who echoes Barber’s view that innovation is not a matter of discovery, but of just finding a better way of doing things.

adjunct with the Queen's–RMC Fuel Cell Research Centre and a theme coordinator with AUT021, has been struggling with the less frequently discussed matter of how to handle hydrogen in the same convenient way we now store and transport a fuel such as gasoline. He acknowledges that hydrogen fuel cells have evolved considerably, with several

“The car is such an elegant, simple and amazing invention that it hasn’t changed its basic functioning for about 100 years,” he says. “There’s still four tires, four doors, a steering wheel. They’ve been around for so long, they’ve existed in our world for so long, we take them for granted. We take the technology for granted, and we take the technological innovation that is being put into cars for granted. It’s a real shame, because this has public policy implications.” Among those implications is the eagerness displayed by global newcomers such as China or Korea, whom we expect to take this industry off our hands. They want in, Anastakis argues, because this business is so very lucrative and beneficial for a country’s economy. Moreover, he suggests that problems looming much larger than the fate of the automobile — such as climate change, environmental degradation, and energy consumption — can nevertheless be tackled through innovative automotive technology. “We’re really good at building cars in this country,” he concludes. “Why would we give up what we have?” ACCN

Want to share your thoughts on this article? Write to us at June 2010 Canadian Chemical News  15

Chemical Engineering: PETROLEUM

QA &

Q & A with

Miriam Diamond

Pressing the Limit

A chemical engineer and environmental scientist weighs in on the oil spill and the breaking point of technology.


he explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in late April, and the desperate scramble that followed to quell the leak, has cast a negative light on the practice of drilling for oil in deep water environments, and doubt on our faith in technology to mitigate the catastrophe. ACCN spoke with Miriam Diamond, an environmental scientist and chemical engineer from the University of Toronto, for her perspective on the crisis. At the time of the interview, BP’s containment dome had failed when hydrate crystals formed around the top of the structure and oil from the beleagured well had made its first confirmed landfall in Louisiana. At the time of publication, “top kill” efforts, which involved pumping heavy drilling mud into the well, had failed and 12,000 to 25,000 barrels of oil continued to leak into the ocean each day.

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ACCN: From your perspective as an environmental scientist, what is your impression of what’s going on in the Gulf of Mexico? M.D.: I’m concerned because recent efforts to cap it have failed and I’m also concerned because the well is very deep. The industry does not have a lot of experience with these kinds of disasters. I’m also concerned because the location is within 50 to 70 kilometres, roughly, of some really biologically productive areas. We need to be concerned about ecosystem health and also appreciate that we live off the ecosystem. We eat a lot of seafood and we’re fishing it out quite rapidly. This is an area that’s very productive for seafood.

ACCN: Can you relate those concerns back to your core area of research, which is contaminants in the environment? M.D.: We want a balance between developing new technologies and being careful about introducing new technologies because of unforeseen circumstances. The Deepwater Horizon well blow out is an example of an unforeseen circumstance. Certainly others would counter by saying, “Ah, but we’ve benefited in so many ways by having oil and gas.” I think many of us are familiar with the advantages of advanced technologies based on the petroleum industry and the petrochemical industry, but there are quite a number of side dis-benefits. Those dis-benefits include not only oil pollution — and by the way, there’s a lot of oil pollution that goes on all the time, every day from mundane leaks; The oil producing regions of the world experience spills pretty well on a daily basis — we also have air pollution and a very car-driven society. Water and air pollution are creating increasingly large dis-benefits in terms of adverse health effects. So, I think a disaster like this should really challenge us to think broadly about the overall balance sheet of moving forward with investing so much money into an aging technology.

ACCN: What’s your perspective as a chemical engineer? M.D.: I think some of us — and it’s not just the chemical engineers, but I would submit that people in business and finance — tend to have a great deal of confidence in our technology. I think it behooves us to be humble. We cannot foresee all the problems that will arise. I heard a comment from Prime Minister Stephen Harper regarding Canada’s policy on deep oil drilling off of the east coast. He said this kind of a deepsea oil well blow out would never happen in Canada because we have much stronger checks and balances in terms of drilling relief wells and ensuring that we have proper regulatory oversight. I think, with due respect, that that’s an incredibly over-optimistic response. The Prime Minister of Canada cannot assure Canadians that we would not have a similar disaster. You cannot assure the technology is fail proof. That is just not the way technology works. We learned the lesson the hard way with the nuclear industry as a result of Three Mile Island. There was such a phenomenal backlash from the public against the nuclear industry that virtually no nuclear reactors have been built since then. Part of the backlash came because, I would suggest, an arrogance by some to say that there would not be any disasters occurring at nuclear power plants. There were so many checks and balances that a disaster could not happen. Why have we not learned our lesson regarding the miscalculation of risks due to technological failures? Why are we going into deep sea drilling when we don’t have tested technology that will minimize a disaster like this from occurring? Let’s ask the question a bit further. Why are we

continuing to invest so generously in oil technologies when we know that there are finite reserves and we know that we must move forward with alternative, low-carbon energy technologies?

ACCN: The focus of your research group is to “study and develop defensible strategies to improve environmental­quality in systems subject to elevated contaminant inputs.” Can this be done in a deep water oil drilling scenario? M.D.: I think the answer is no, because we’ve seen it. We’ve got the proof by example. I suggest that we direct our efforts towards developing clean technologies rather than cleanup technologies. Whereas some level of environmental degradation is the inevitable outcome of human activities, prevention is a far more effective and cost-efficient strategy than finding cures. ACCN: In early May, it was widely reported that BP had submitted paperwork to the U.S. government stating that it was “unlikely that an accidental surface or subsurface oil spill would occur” and that “due to the distance to shore and the response capabilities that would be implemented, no significant adverse impacts are expected.” M.D.: Regulations are only as good as the accompanying regulatory oversight. In the case of BP’s deep sea drilling activities, we need to ask how stringent was the oversight of regulations governing these activities? How extensive were their contingency analyses? You can’t do a pilot plant experiment with capping. You wouldn’t have found ice crystals accumulating in the dome on your bench top. So where is the skepticism? What the Prime Minister said was tantamount to the same comments from BP. The added concern about an oil spill either off the east coast or even worse, in the Arctic, is the potential for adverse environmental effects in these cold climates. ACCN: Chevron Canada is drilling one of the deepest offshore oil wells in the world off the coast of Newfoundland, 2,600 metres below the ocean surface, about one kilometre deeper than Deepwater Horizon. M.D.: The deep water drilling off the shore of Newfoundland is a source of concern because of the potential for mishap in these cold waters. Remember, we are drilling deeper at the same time that climate change is resulting in a less predictable climate with more extreme events such as storms and hurricanes. We are putting the environment at risk to drill more oil in order to combust it, which will further June 2010 Canadian Chemical News  17

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contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, which will further contribute to climate change. That’s quite the catch -22!

attuned to tasting phenols that taint fish and there will be phenols in the oil, especially with the oil being subject to photo-oxidation.

ACCN: BP started engineering and building the dome they hoped would work to contain the spill only after the disaster began. What’s your take on this kind of high pressure, last-minute engineering? Does it work?

ACCN: What is the role of chemical engineers in improving those outlooks?

M.D.: We’re a month out and the dome technology has some serious technical flaws. It’s highly disconcerting that a range of contingency plans were not in place to deal with a blow out. ACCN: We know that the technology for extracting oil moves along quickly. What about the technology for cleaning up these oil spills, does it move along during times of non-crisis quickly enough? M.D.: It seems the case is not. The cleanup technologies are essentially the same as those used for decades now: floating booms, using skimmers, using chemical dispersants, flares, burning the spills.

ACCN: One of your specialty areas is organic and inorganic­contaminants in water bodies. The focus right now is the immediate crisis, but what’s the outlook for the food-web in the Gulf ten or 20 years from now? M.D.: The fortunate part of this spill, if there is any fortunate part, is that it is in a warm temperature, so whatever is not ignited will volatilize fairly rapidly. The microbes that are able to metabolize crude oil will increase in population as time goes on and they will be fairly effective at chewing up at least the lower molecular weight compounds. The oil will volatilize and degrade because of the warm temperatures. We can contrast the Gulf of Mexico spill with those of the Exxon Valdez where the effects are still being felt two decades later because of the cold temperatures and the cold temperature ecosystem. There’s much less volatilization, much less biodegradation because the cold temperatures don’t favour biological activity. That’s our wakeup call for the Atlantic drilling and for Arctic drilling. You spill it, you’ll see it. ACCN: Fisheries are worried about the perception that seafood harvested from the Gulf will be tainted from the spill. Do consumers have reason to be concerned? M.D.: Hopefully the spot checks will occur so that the harvested food, should it be tainted, won’t get to market. Our tastebuds are fairly

M.D.: Chemical engineers play a critical role in this. That role is the technologies to deal with the capping, to estimate the spread of the spill, to look at cleanup methods, to intercede in terms of remediation. So chemical engineers play an important role in really every facet of this disaster. Chemical engineers also play a really important role in moving forward on alternative energy technologies that will supersede traditional carbon-based fuels such as oil and gas, in favour of low-carbon energy sources. Chemical engineers are in an excellent position to be at the forefront in this transition. ACCN: If deep water drilling is so dangerous and can result in this kind of catastrophe, is there any argument­to be made in favour of the oil sands? M.D.: Supporters of the oil sands are making that argument. I would not make that argument. What we’re doing with the tar sands is exploiting a dirty source of energy that is becoming increasingly less economic. It’s less economic because of the overburden that has to be stripped and the clean up of a very old crude. Again, I don’t understand why as a society we are investing so much money into an old technology that’s leading to seriously adverse effects with climate change. ACCN: Anything to add? M.D.: Just the notion of connecting the environmental consequences of deep drilling for a carbon source that we’re ultimately sending into the atmosphere. This oil spill and oil extraction in general has, in fact, a much larger environmental consequence which extends to climate change. Do we now drill deeper for oil when this spill should come as a wake-up call to attendant risks from drilling, also knowing that those risks are expected to increase because of climate change brought about by oil and gas combustion? When we know that the climate is becoming more unpredictable and extreme? And the carbon that we’re using from these deep drills is actually exacerbating the strength of these storms. ACCN: It’s a terrible kind of irony, isn’t it? M.D.: Isn’t it?


Want to share your thoughts on this article? Write to us at June 2010 Canadian Chemical News  19

Chemistry: tourism


Tourism Showcasing The World’s Hotspots for the Chemically Inclined

Anne Campbell

» Chemistry is everywhere, including tourist destinations. You can tailor your summer holiday towards your interest in the chemical sciences by going rockhounding in Ontario, flying to Switzerland — and back in time — to discover revolutionary physics with Albert Einstein, taking a historical tour of the war efforts in nuclear chemistry in the western U.S., attending college with Ernest Rutherford in New Zealand or relaxing in volcanic hot springs in the Phillippines.

Bancroft, Ontario B

ancroft, Ont. could be mistaken for just another small town on the Canadian Shield. But only if you discount the massive granite ridge rising one hundred metres along the edge of the main highway. The formation is home to quarries where you can find a vast supply of collectable rocks, minerals and gemstones. Approximately a billion years ago, volcanoes were forming but failed to break through the dense layer of granite in the Canadian Shield. Lava cooled underground making this place a rich source of pegmatites. Pegmatites have an inner core of quartz with traces of rare earth minerals on the surface. One of the most striking quartz varieties found in the pegmatites of the area is rose quartz. The translucent pink stone adds colour to the granite surroundings as more samples get uncovered by the rock collectors who converge on the town. A scientific mystery in the geology of the area is how the rose quartz gets its colour. Theories include traces of phosphate or aluminum in

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the crystal structure or the presence of impurities like titanium, iron or manganese. The area is also home to an abundance of feldspar. Feldspar contains silicates of aluminum with potassium, sodium or calcium, or with sodium and calcium. The complex group of minerals gives feldspar a variety of colours. Another intriguing prospect is the number of unique and valuable gems hidden in the granite shield that have yet to be exposed.

When to go August for the annual Bancroft Rockhound Gemboree or early fall when the trees provide colour in addition to the gems. Not to be missed The Rose Quartz pit, the Beryl Pit and the Eagle’s Nest — a hundred metre-high wall of granite. What to take High-quality hammers and chisels to join the other rockhounds and try to build your collection.

Einstein House, Bern, Switzerland I n Switzerland, you can experience life the way Albert Einstein lived his. The apartment that Einstein lived in from 1903 to 1905, during his “annus mirabilis,” his year of miracles, in Bern, has been renovated by the Albert Einstein Society. It is open to the public and reflects the era and his lifestyle giving visitors a chance to experience the more personal side of the great scientist. This apartment was the home of Einstein and his first wife, Mileva Maric, and also where their first son, Hans Albert, was born. Having failed in the academic world and being defeated by doctoral exams, his life then changed — as he changed the world — by publishing five papers in theoretical physics when working at the Swiss Federal Patent Office. It was at this menial desk job and from this small apartment in Bern that he published his Special Theory of Relativity and began the General Theory. Einstein’s apartment was on the main street of Bern. While looking out the window from his little work desk, he could watch the historic town clock chime hourly with its glockenspiel movements of human and animal figures. The Zytglogge clock tower is still standing today. Rumour has it that Einstein developed his Special Theory of Relativity while riding one of the town’s tram cars and pondering the relationships between time travel and space. Tram cars are still one of the main modes of transport in Bern.

When to go The Einstein House is open February to December and Bern’s warmest weather is June to September. Not to be missed The Historical Museum of Bern also has a section dedicated to Albert Einstein. What to take Good walking shoes and your sweet tooth. The historic old town in central Bern is a UNESCO World Heritage site; you will want to walk all the old cobblestone streets and check out the sweet chocolate shops.

June 2010 Canadian Chemical News  21

Chemistry: tourism

Hanford Nuclear Site,

Washington, U.S. I

n the early 1900s, Hanford and White Bluffs were remote communities in southeastern Washington state along the Columbia River. Approximately 900 people lived in the area dominated by farming and agriculture. That abruptly changed in 1943. During the Second World War, when the War Department needed to build atomic weapons in secret, they forced the residents out of their homes. They needed the Columbia River and a hydroelectric dam to provide clean, cold water and electricity to build nuclear reactors. Today, Hanford is home to old plutonium reactors and 11,000 government employees charged with cleaning up the area. Enrico Fermi, famed nuclear physicist, was one of the scientific

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supervisors on the reactor that produced the plutonium from uranium. At Hanford, uranium-235 underwent fission to produce approximately 2.5 neutrons and ultimately plutonium-239. (The uranium-238 nuclei can capture a neutron to become uranium239. Uranium-239 emits two beta particles to produce plutonium-239.) The plutonium produced in Hanford’s B Reactor was used in the Fat Man bomb dropped over Nagasaki, Japan in 1945 ending the Second World War. Hanford offers a public tour of the B Reactor. For U.S. citizens, the tour includes all areas of Hanford, including the Cold Test facility and the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility.

B Reactor, which began operating in September, 1944, can be seen between the water towers in this Second World War-era photo.

When to go Tours are available April through September. Not to be missed The origins of the plutonium bomb in the core of the B Reactor. What to take Proof of your U.S. citizenship, if you have it, so you can see the full tour, including parts that are off limits to non-citizens.

Rutherford’s Den,Christchurch, New Zealand


ord Ernest Rutherford is considered the father of nuclear physics and also the most famous scientist from New Zealand. Rutherford attended Canterbury College in Christchurch on the east coast of the South Island. He excelled at math, which is important because that is how he was able to afford to continue studying at Canterbury and enroll in physics in his second year. For his MA at Canterbury College, Rutherford studied the magneticism of iron. By passing electrical current through wire wrapped around iron, the iron became magnetic. Rutherford created a timing device with intervals of one hundred thousandth of a second to determine the magnetization effects of iron. Rutherford’s research was performed in poor facilities in the chemistry and physics building known as ‘the old tin shed.’ Needing a concrete floor to minimize vibrations, he also set up lab in

a cloak room underneath a lecture hall — known as ‘the den.’ Rutherford’s Den is now a small museum with multimedia exhibits showcasing Rutherford’s life and achievements and featuring a hologram image of the great Kiwi. The museum offers historic broadcasts and retrospections on Rutherford’s life allowing visitors to experience Canterbury College just as Rutherford had in the 1890s.

When to go December through March offers the most temperate weather for New Zealand. Not to be missed Canterbury College as it was in the 1890s, and a hologram image of Ernest Rutherford. What to take Your camera to capture other nearby attractions including the Christchurch Cathedral, the Botanic Gardens and the Avon River.

June 2010 Canadian Chemical News  23

Canadian Society for Chemistry

Le Prix du doctorat en chimiedu CDDCUC

The CCUCC Chemistry Doctoral Award

Parrainé par le Conseil des directeurs de département de chimie des universités­canadiennes­(CDDCUC)

Sponsored by the Canadian Council of University Chemistry Chairs (CCUCC)

Le prix du doctorat en chimie du CDDCUC est présenté à un étudiant des cycles supérieurs­dont la thèse de doctorat en chimie a été formellement­ acceptée par une université­canadienne­au cours des 12 mois précédant la date d’échéance des mises en candidatures. Ce prix souligne une contribution­ et un potentiel en recherche exceptionnels­. Prix: Un parchemin encadré et un prix en argent comptant.­

The CCUCC Chemistry Doctoral Award is presented for outstanding achievement and potential in research by a graduate­student whose PhD thesis in chemistry was formally accepted by a Canadian university­in the 12-month period preceding the nomination­ deadline.­Award: A framed scroll and cash prize.

Nominations are now open for the 2011 award. Submit your nominations to: Awards Manager Canadian Society for Chemistry 130 Slater Street, Suite 550 Ottawa, ON K1P 6E2 Tel: 613-232-6252, ext. 223 Fax: 613-232-5862

La période de mise en candidature est mai tenant ouverte pour le prix 2010. Veuillez faire parvenir vos mises en candidature à : Directrice des prix Société canadienne de chimie 130, rue Slater, bureau 550 Ottawa (Ontario) K1P 6E2 Tél. : 613-232-6252, poste 223 Téléc. : 613-232-5862

Deadline: September 15, 2010

Date limite : le 15 Septembre 2010

The full Terms of Reference for this award are available at www.cheminst.­ca/awards.

Le cadre de référence complet pour ce prix est disponible au

DEPARTMENT OF CHEMISTRY  FULL-TIME LIMITED TERM INSTRUCTOR The Department of Chemistry at Dalhousie University invites applications for a three-year position at the rank of Instructor. July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2013 (or as soon as possible after July 1, 2010). Duties: The Instructor is responsible for all aspects of coordinating, teaching and maintaining the undergraduate organic laboratory program. This includes setting up the experiments, supervising TAs, giving weekly TA workshops, ensuring Chemistry Stores provides required supplies in a timely fashion, maintaining the laboratory grades, ensuring the fair grading of laboratory reports and other duties assigned by the Chair of the Department of Chemistry. This position requires working with the professors who are teaching organic chemistry to update and revise the labs as required, including applying to the Teaching Equipment Committee for funds; also preparation and updating of the lab manual. In addition, the Instructor is expected to hold office hours as necessary. This position reports to the Chair. The position requires a minimum of an MSc degree in Chemistry or equivalent. Some teaching experience would be an asset. The salary is defined by the DFA Collective Agreement, 2007, depending on qualifications and experience. Applications should consist of a curriculum vitae, teaching dossier and three reference letters sent by separate cover. Consideration of applications will begin on 1 June, 2010, although the search will remain open until the position is filled. The completed application should be sent to: Dr. Neil Burford, Chair Department of Chemistry Dalhousie University Halifax, NS B3H 4J3 Tel: 902-494-3707 Fax: All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however, Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority. Dalhousie University is an Employment Equity/ Affirmative Action employer. The University encourages applications from qualified Aboriginal people, persons with a disability, racially visible persons and women

Ardent Hot Springs AND the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, Camiguin, Philippines


he island of Camiguin is an ecological tourist destination including something for all scientists. Natural hot and cold springs, rain forests, dormant volcanoes, and ancient ruins are all found within minutes of each other. The Ardent Hot Springs is a four-tiered natural pool where each depth naturally occurs at a specific temperature. The magma reservoirs from nearby volcanoes heat the pools of water. The warmest pool is 40 degrees C. Since hot water is able to hold more dissolved solids, the high mineral and sulphur content of the hot springs gives rise to the local wisdom that suggests the hot pools can cure your

ailments. Afterwards, you can step over to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLVS) which is located approximately 400 metres up the side of Mount Hibok-Hibok. Not only will you find stunning scenery, but also seismographs and the monitoring of all volcanological parameters. The mineral content and temperature of the hot springs can help predict any future volcanic activity. In 1871, a volcano erupted on the island. The remains of that eruption now lay six metres underwater and is known as the sunken cemetery. Scaled with coral, the sunken cemetery can be explored by scuba diving and snorkeling. ACCN

When to go Dictated by the Philippines prevailing winds, the best weather is generally January to May with the tail ends of the amihans — northeastern monsoon winds. Typhoon season is June to November which comes with the habagat — southwestern monsoon winds. Not to be missed Mount Hibok-Hibok, the lone active volcano on the island of Camiguin, with its six hot springs, three crater lakes and a volcanic maar. What to take Don’t forget to pack your hiking boots as Mount Hibok-Hibok has some of the best hiking spots in the Philippines.

Other hotspots for your itinerary Alexander Fleming Laboratory, Fleming, U.K. Carl Bosch Museum, Heidelberg, Germany. Herkimer Diamond Mines, Middleville, New York, U.S. Parkes Radio Telescope, New South Wales, Australia. Rutherford Museum, McGill University, Montréal, Que. United States Army Chemical Corps Museum, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, U.S.

Want to share your thoughts on this article? Write to us at June 2010 Canadian Chemical News  25

Become a Certified Chemical Technologist (cCT) cCT certification offered by the Canadian Society for Chemical Technology (CSCT) • Is recognized nationally by employers • Is based on Canada-wide technology standards • Allows for greater career mobility CSCT members in good standing who have attained the required combination of education and experience in chemical technology­need only apply once for the cCT and pay the onetime fee of $25 plus tax. Certification remains valid as long as CSCT membership is maintained. For more information or to apply go to or contact Kevin Ferris, CSCT Certification Director at kferris@

Leaving a legacy

From one generation to the next Do you want to ensure that the next generation will contribute chemistry solutions to tomorrow’s global challenges­? Do you want to be part of their discovery of the wonders of chemistry? Through the CSC Legacy Fund, you can now leave a gift, either outright or deferred (in a will), to support projects­and initiatives that help the Canadian Society for Chemistry pursue its mandate of education­-related projects. Find out how you can make a gift by visiting

The CSC Legacy Fund is a charitable fund initiated by the CSC and created in collaboration with the CIC Chemical Education Fund (CEF). It is held and administered by the CEF.

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Society News Nouvelles des sociétés Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering Board of Directors Nominations (2010–2011) Nominations pour le Conseil de direction de la Société canadienne de génie chimique (2010–2011) The Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering (CSChE) Nominating Committee, appointed under the terms of CSChE bylaws Article 8, Section K, has proposed the candidates listed below to serve as CSChE officers and directors for 2010–2011. Grant Allen, FCIC, CSChE past president and chair of the Nominating Committee, is pleased to announce the candidates for the 2010–2011 election. Additional nominations for candidates may be submitted by members no later than Tuesday, June 22, 2010. Ten or more voting members, in good standing, must support additional submissions in writing. Those elected, whether by ballot or acclamation, will take office immediately following the Society’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Saskatoon, Sask., on October 25, 2010. Le comité des candidatures de la Société canadienne de génie chimique (SCGCh), nommé aux termes de l’article k de la division 8 des règlements de la SCGCh, propose les candidats suivants aux posts d’administrateurs de la SCGCh pour l’exercice 2010– 2011. Grant Allen, FCIC, président sortant de la SCGCh et président du comité des candidatures, est heureux de présenter les candidats aux élections pour l’exercice 2010– 2011. Les membres peuvent présenter d’autres candidats au plus tard le mardi 22 juin 2010. Les mises en candidatures supplémentaires doivent être appuyées par écrit par au moins dix membres votants. Les personnes élues, au scrutin ou sans concurrent, entreront en fonction immédiatement après l’Assemblée générale annuelle de la Société qui se tiendra le 25 octobre 2010 à Saskatoon (Saskatchewan). President 2010–2011 Robert Legros, MCIC, has been a professor in the Chemical Engineering Department at École Polytechnique de Montréal since 1990. Since December 2003, he has been the head of this department. Founded in 1873, école Polytechnique is one of Canada's leading engineering institutions in the areas of teaching and research, and is first in Quebec in terms of student numbers and level of research funding. Legros obtained his BIng degree in chemical engineering from école Polytechnique in 1983. He completed his PhD in 1987 at the University of Surrey, U.K., and was a post-doctoral fellow at The University of British Columbia in 1988. He is a renowned expert in the field of fluidized and spouted bed systems and their industrial applications. Recently, part of his research has been on the development of bioseparation and downstream processes. Legros is a professional engineer, member of the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec (OIQ). He has always been very active in the CSChE. He was president of the Montréal local section from 1994–1995 and the associate editor of the Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering from 1998–2003. He chaired the Association of Canadian Chairs of Chemical Engineering (ACCCE) in 2006. Vice-president 2010–2011 Emily Moore, MCIC, is a graduate of the engineering chemistry program at Queen’s University and completed her doctorate in physical chemistry at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. In 1997, Moore joined the Xerox Research Centre of Canada (XRCC) where she helped to bring Xerox’s Emulsion Aggregation toner technology from the lab to manufacturing. While at XRCC, she was awarded the Joseph C. Wilson award, the highest research and development award at Xerox. Moore served as chair of the XRCC University Partnership Committee from 2001– 2003 and was a member of the NSERC Advisory Committee on University Industry Grants from 2004–2007. She was CSChE director for Outreach and Student Affairs

 Continuing

Education for Chemical Professionals

indoor air qualitycourse

2010 Schedule

October 14 –15, 2010

Burnaby, BC

Registration fees

$247.50 BCIT Faculty $495 CIC members $695 non-members $75 Students


he Chemical Institute of

Canada (CIC) and the Canadian Society for Chemical Technology (CSCT) are presenting a two-day course designed to enhance the knowledge and working experience of chemical technologists and chemists. This course will provide a range of material which will enable the participants to understand the transformations that take place in air when pollutants are present, and to familiarize themselves with the analytical techniques currently used for air testing. Upon completion of this short course, the participants will be able to perform some of the laboratory analyses for the major atmospheric contaminants as required by engineering consulting firms, private laboratories, and government laboratories involved in pollution analysis.

For more information about the course and locations, and to access the registration form, visit:  June 2010 Canadian Chemical News  27

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Society News Nouvelles des sociétés from 2005–2008. In this role, she worked closely with ACCCE on outreach initiatives. Since 2008, Moore has been director of Technology Development at Hatch, an engineering­consulting company serving the mining and metals, energy and infrastructure sectors. Moore’s statement of policy is as follows: Chemical engineering is a central pillar of the Canadian economy. Our graduates work in every sector, developing the processes we will need for sustainable energy, clean water, more productive manufacturing, more efficient transportation, and materials and drugs for a healthier future. Our process knowledge finds application not only in traditional engineering areas, but also in medicine, law and finance. The challenge for the CSChE is how to serve our members across such a broad array of industries and fields. I believe the first priority for the CSChE has to be developing the network of practicing chemical engineers in the country. This means continuing to strengthen our annual conferences, Subject Divisions and Local Sections. It is through our networks that we can share the latest and greatest advances in our field and tackle the challenges that face us as a nation and society. The CSChE needs to be a community of support for practicing chemical engineers — offering information on and connections across the diverse community. The CSChE must continue its work to bring the best and the brightest to chemical engineering, and then to help our community to maintain its links to the professional foundation that connects us all. Director 2010–2011 Divisions: Christine Moresoli, MCIC will extend her role as director of Divisions from 2010–2011. Moresoli is an associate professor in the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Waterloo. She obtained her Diplôme ès sciences techniques at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland and her MEng and BEng from McGill University. Her area of research interest is in bioprocess engineering with a focus on the development of protein and peptide separation processes, protein-based products, and the manufacture of bioplastics. After her PhD, she worked for two years as a biotechnology engineer at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Moresoli has served the CSChE in many roles including chair of the Biotechnology Subject Division from 2002–2004, organizer of the Ontario-Québec Biotechnology Meeting (1999, 2003) and as organizer of the biotechnology sessions at the CSChE conference (2005, 2006). She has also served on NSERC Committees: Chemical/Metallurgical Engineering Grant Selection Committee (1999–2003), Selection Committee for Doctoral Prizes in Engineering and Computer Sciences (2004-2006) and Strategic Project Selection Panel — Quality Food and Novel Bioproducts (2006–2008).

Chemical Institute of Canada

The Canadian­ Chemical News is online. Visit our new website at View the latest edition. Browse our back issues. Interact with us.

Director 2010–2013 Awards: Milan Maric, MCIC completed his BSc in chemistry and BEng and Mgmt. in chemical engineering and management from McMaster University and a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. His PhD thesis focuses on the reactive compatibilization of polymer blends. After completing his PhD, he worked for four years as a member of research staff at the Xerox Research Center of Canada (XRCC), specializing in the scale-up of toner processes. For the past seven years, he has been an assistant professor (2003–2009) and associate professor (2009–present) in the Department of Chemical Engineering at McGill University. His teaching assignments included the following courses: polymer processing, polymer engineering and science, materials engineering, design project, physical chemistry and separation processes. His research focuses on applying controlled radical polymerization fundamentals to produce next-generation membrane and photovoltaic materials. He has worked as a session co-chair for past CSChE conferences and was the co-organizer for sessions at the 8th World Congress of Chemical Engineering in 2009. He is a member of AIChE, CSChE, ACS and Sigma Xi. ACCN

May 2010

June 2010 Canadian Chemical News  29

Chemfusion Joe Schwarcz


The Science of Stink

nderwear and upholstery? Not exactly items that one would expect to rank high among the interests of the former East German Ministry of State Security, better known by its German acronym, “Stasi.” Well, surprise, surprise. From its inception in 1950 to its dismantling in 1990, Stasi’s task was to seek out and uproot enemies of the state by whatever means were necessary. And if it took rummaging through drawers for underwear or making people sweat on a “smell” chair, so be it. Dogs have long been used to track people by their scent. Their noses, with some forty times more olfactory receptors than ours, can be trained to identify people by their smell. Of course training requires a sample of the odour that is to be tracked. And this is where the underwear and the upholstery come in.

30   L’Actualité chimique canadienne

juin 2010

Agents became adept at stealing underwear from suspected dissidents’ hotel rooms in case they needed to be followed later, but it was in the design of the “smell” chair that Stasi ingenuity really came to the fore. The chair was fitted with an interchangeable absorbent cloth fastened down to look like a regular cushion. A suspect brought in for questioning at the dreaded Stasi headquarters would sweat it out on the chair. Afterwards the cloth would be removed and stored in an airtight jar in case it was needed later to put a dog on the scent. Since dogs can identify specific individuals by scent, it stands to reason that we must have unique “odourprints,” analogous to fingerprints. Everyday experience also suggests that we exude specific smell patterns. Mosquitoes find some people more attractive than others, infants can quickly learn to distinguish their mothers from other women and husbands and wives readily recognize each other’s scent. But exactly what is being recognized has been a matter of mystery. After all, it is well known that human odour is made up of literally hundreds of different compounds, the presence and concentration of which may vary according to gender, age, emotional status and health. Thanks to some fascinating research carried out in Austria, we may now be getting a handle on the chemistry of our distinctive scents. Capturing human aroma is not an easy task, given that we give off scents through our sweat, saliva, urine and feces. The Austrian scientists collected underarm secretions along with urine and saliva samples for analysis. They enlisted 197 adult volunteers from a village in the Austrian Alps and collected their fragrant emanations over a ten-week period. The subjects were asked to avoid scented cosmetics, to wear only T-shirts washed with fragrance-free detergents, and to refrain from using any deodorant after their last wash before sampling. Underarm secretions were collected with a special rolling device fitted with a silicone-coated plastic insert that absorbed smells. The silicone was then submitted for analysis by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, the standard technique these days for separating and identifying organic compounds. Saliva and urine gave off plenty of compounds, but it was the complexity of underarm sweat that was astounding. Some 373 different armpit compounds appeared consistently, their relative amounts varying in individuals. No two subjects exhibited exactly the same pattern. It

seems we really do have unique odourprints! And if we have them, what do we do with them? How about using them to catch criminals or suspected terrorists? It has been said that a criminal will always leave something behind at a crime scene. It may be a solitary hair, a single fibre, a fingerprint. And no matter how careful he may be, there is something the criminal cannot avoid leaving behind: his scent! His aroma molecules diffuse into the air, with some eventually settling on the surroundings. A crime scene can be swabbed, the air can be sampled, and the pattern of chemicals found can be compared to that given off by a suspect. Gotcha! Another possibility is to have airline passengers pass through a chamber, the same way as through a metal detector. Their odourprints could be collected and matched with those in a smell data bank stocked with scents from suspected terrorists. But what if you don’t have an odour bank? Is it possible to still identify someone who may be planning some fiendish activity? Maybe. As long as the person is nervous. If you sky jump for the first time, you’re going to be nervous, right? That’s what researchers at Stony Brook University in New York figured. So they outfitted forty neophyte jumpers with armpit absorbent pads to collect the sweat they produced as they plummeted to earth. On another day they had the same subjects run on a treadmill, again with armpit pads. Then a separate group of volunteers was asked to sniff the extracted odours while their brains were subjected to an MRI scan. The stressed armpits produced an array of chemicals that activated a different part of their brain than the exercise-induced sweat. So obviously there is something different about the sweat of frightened people. The next step would be to try to identify a specific odourprint that may be associated with anxiety. Of course, there is the usual “but.” Can heinous terrorists be distinguished from innocent passengers who are just nervous about flying? I wouldn’t be surprised if Stasi researchers had explored such possibilities during the Cold War. ACCN Joe Schwarcz is the director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society.

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