BUSINESS FALL 2019
Making strides to cut emissions
NEWSMAKER: BEATRIZ MOLERO SANCHEZ
The cofounder of See02 Energy is turning CO2 into profits
WHO’S LEADING THE PACK & WHAT’S ALL THE BUZZ ABOUT?
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14 feature stories
inside LAB REPORT
TAKING ACTION AGAINST WASTEFUL LABS
How ditching plastic petri dishes can make a huge impact on emissions
Dr. Beatriz Molero Sanchez developed a system that converts CO2 into valuable resources, including syngas
IS THIS THE “BIG BANG” FOR CLEAN ENERGY?
General Fusion is developing commercialized nuclear fusion with almost $50 million in federal funding
MAKING FUEL FROM FUMES
How facilities can make a big difference to reduce their power consumption – while saving money
WE CAN BE ZEROES
Carbon Engineering has attracted more than $100 million to expand its global business – and Bill Gates is one of its investors
THE BURNING QUESTION
The research centre at Mohawk College is Canada’s largest net-zero building
EDITORIAL NEWS BITES
standard EDITOR’S NOTE
CASE STUDY: SOL CUISINE
6 CANADIAN NEWS 7 SUZUKI MATTERS
WORLDWIDE NEWS LAB WARE
MOMENTS IN TIME
35 36 37
EARTH’S OWN AND THE “MIGHTY OAT”
FEATURE: BLOCKCHAIN AND FOOD SECURITY
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We asked four innovators how they’re building better batteries
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To mitigate climate change, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that up to 4 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions per year will need to be removed from our atmosphere by carbon capture, utilization and sequestration technologies before 2040. The IEA also reports that in 2016, electricity and heat generation were the largest source of global emissions, accounting for 42 per cent, while overall electricity consumption more than doubled between 1990 and 2016. As much as some people might want to bury their heads in the sand and ignore the evidence, these days you can’t escape the uncomfortable topic of climate change. And when you talk about climate change, you can’t avoid discussing emissions and, ultimately, our global demand for energy. If only we could dramatically reduce our emissions – but how? That’s where scientists have an opportunity – not only to share what they know, but to develop new efficiencies and discoveries that will halt, and possibly reverse, the damage we’re doing. It’s almost impossible to keep up with the headlines: From extreme weather to melting ice and record-breaking temperatures, projections are being shattered and the urgency is mounting. The time to change our ways was yesterday, but today will do; tomorrow might be too late. For those who want to debate the evidence and possible outcomes, I can recommend a fascinating book that few can argue against: High Tide on Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis, by oceanographer John Englander. The former CEO of the Cousteau Society and founder of the International Sea Level Institute cites a mountain of scientific findings, including geologic history over thousands of years, to estimate some of the worst-case scenarios we’re facing. Already, many of his predictions have come true. In one of Englander’s most recent editorials, published by the Miami Herald this summer, he advises: “We can bury our heads in the sand, or we can begin to plan and adapt.... There is no time to delay. We need to be bold. The recent commemoration of the bold plan to put a man on the moon might serve as inspiration for what we can accomplish with the right vision, the right resources and leadership. Responding to the challenge of the rising sea and shifting shorelines will likely be even more of a challenge than putting a man on the moon.” Looking at some of the brilliant minds and ideas included in this issue, we can have confidence that Canadians – and many others – are doing their part to create solutions for our current crisis. Scientists, engineers and other innovators are leading the way, but every person plays a part – even just switching off the lights when they aren’t needed, or taking transit more often. We can all Popi Bowman make a difference – and we need to, now. MANAGING EDITOR
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BY DAVID SUZUKI WITH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM IAN HANINGTON
LET’S TALK ABOUT EMISSIONS –
AND THE POWER SECTOR
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Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Ian Hanington is Senior Editor, David Suzuki Foundation. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.
e’re caught in a bad cycle. Global greenhouse gas emissions are still rising, causing more extreme weather events and temperature swings. Hotter than normal weather in some places and colder in others means more people are using heat and air conditioning, which creates more emissions…. According to a statistical review by oil and gas company BP, carbon emissions rose by two per cent in 2018, faster than any year since 2011, mainly because energy demand spiked higher than renewable energy deployment.1 Much of the increase was from China, India and the United States. In the U.S., industrial energy use rose, but so did demand as the country (along with China and Russia) experienced the most days with hotter or colder than average weather since the 1950s. The report says it would have been worse without “extraordinary growth” in renewable energy – 14.5 per cent last year – and a modest increase in electric vehicle use, but renewables need to grow much faster.2 Canada is warming at twice the global average rate – more in the North! But years of inaction and political roadblocks are making it challenging to meet our Paris Agreement commitments.3 As one of the highest per capita emitters, we can and must do our part to help the world avoid climate chaos. The pathways to get there exist. With political will, we can employ the many available and emerging solutions. BP group chief economist Spencer Dale said shifting to low-carbon energy systems means changing the power sector, as “it is the single largest source of carbon emissions within the energy system; and it is where much of the lowest-hanging fruit lie for reducing carbon emissions over the next 20 years.”4 By cleaning up the electricity sector, electrifying sectors like transportation and industry, and using energy wisely, we can avoid the worst impacts of climate disruption while reducing pollution and creating economic opportunities. Zeroing in on Emissions5 is the first report to come out of the Clean Power Pathways project, a collaboration between the David Suzuki Foundation and researchers at the universities of Victoria
and Regina. It outlines 10 proven strategies to get emissions to or near zero by mid-century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says CO2 emissions must reach zero by 2050 to avoid more than 1.5 °C of temperature rise. As the BP review and Zeroing in on Emissions conclude, that means much faster development and deployment of cleaner energy, especially for power generation. BP also calls for fossil fuel solutions, like switching from coal to natural gas and relying on technologies like carbon capture and storage, but the Foundation’s report finds energy efficiency and renewable energy will get us there faster and at a lower cost, although carbon capture is still necessary. Canada has a head start. Our power sector already generates a considerable amount of energy with hydro, wind and solar, but we aren’t yet tapping all the available options. Saskatchewan, which has Canada’s highest wind and solar energy potential,6 spent $1.5 billion on carbon capture and storage7 to keep burning coal, with poor economic and health outcomes. Greater electrification and renewable energy deployment means investing in energy storage, smart grids and better transmission and distribution systems. We can even use hydro dams and reservoirs to store clean energy. Distributed energy with technologies like rooftop solar and battery storage for homes and businesses can create energy independence and reduce reliance on dirty fuels like diesel in remote communities. Other solutions include energy efficiency; designing compact, livable communities; levelling the playing field with a steadily escalating price on carbon pollution to drive innovation and clean technology; supporting vulnerable workers and communities during the transition; and shifting away from our obsession with constant growth to focus on well-being. Further opportunities exist in agriculture, waste, land-use change and forestry, which were beyond the Foundation report’s scope. We have little time to get emissions under control before we lock so much CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that temperatures will rise to catastrophic levels. Even the oil companies know this. The solutions are there; we just need the will to employ them.
1 bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-ofworld-energy.html 2 theguardian.com/business/2019/jun/11/energy-industry-carbonemissions-bp-report-fossil-fuels 3 globalnews.ca/news/5173521/canada-greenhouse-gas-emissions-2017 4 bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-ofworld-energy.html 5 davidsuzuki.org/science-learning-centre-article/zeroing-in-onemissions-canadas-clean-power-pathways-a-review/ 6 neb-one.gc.ca/nrg/ntgrtd/mrkt/nrgsstmprfls/sk-eng. html?=undefined&wbdisable=true 7 cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/sask-carbon-capture-short-oftarget-ceo-says-1.5126409
CLIMATE CHANGE RESEARCH GAINS FUNDING
EV CHARGING ON MANITOBA CAMPUS The Red River College in Winnipeg received a $60,000 investment from the Government of Canada to install its first electric vehicle (EV) rapid charging station on campus. The station will run on repurposed transit bus batteries. Funding was provided through Natural Resources Canada’s Green Infrastructure Program.
TURNING GHGs INTO CARBON FIBRE
In July, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, announced $4.7 million to fund nine climate change research projects. These projects are advancing our knowledge of the role forests play, accelerating innovation in energy‑efficient cooling technologies and improving our understanding of how carbon interacts with forests, wetlands and oceans. The Minister made the announcement at the University of Victoria alongside one of the recipients, research scientist Roberta Hamme. Dr. Hamme’s project, “Quantifying and predicting Canada’s ocean carbon sink,” is researching how oceans absorb and release carbon. The results of her research can help the world make better climate change predictions. The projects are funded through the Advancing Climate Change Science in Canada initiative. This joint collaboration among the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada and Health Canada will increase the scientific information available to support government decision-making on climate action. “Science clearly shows us the causes of climate change, and our government is supporting the scientists who we know will show us the solutions,” McKenna stated. “Working with scientists and academics will help us keep pushing forward in the fight against climate change. By coming together and working collaboratively, we can ensure a safer, healthier, more prosperous future for our children and grandchildren.”
The Minister of Environment and Climate Change announced $4.7 million to fund nine climate change research projects.
CANADA INVESTS IN SOLAR CELL TECHNOLOGY
Earlier this year, Simon Fraser University, in Burnaby, B.C., received $558,000 in funding from the Government of Canada towards specialized equipment to help develop solar cells used in solar roadways. The new equipment will be used in collaboration with industry partners including Solar Earth Technologies, Cooledge Lighting and Think Sensor Research. Solar power is one of Canada’s fastest growing sources of renewable energy. “Our government is laying the foundation for Canadians to become more competitive and succeed in the global economy,” said the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, when the funding was announced. “Today’s investment in Simon Fraser University builds on our competitive advantages and will result in building a clean economy, boosting economic growth and creating good, middle-class jobs for Canadians.”
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Dr. Mina Zarabian, a graduate of the chemical engineering program at the University of Calgary, developed a process that transforms greenhouse gases (GHGs) into carbon nanofibres. Her company, Carbonova (www.carbonova.com) – co-founded with Dr. Pedro Pereira Almao – plans to build the first large-scale commercial carbon nanofibres unit in Canada by 2021. The material has exceptional mechanical, thermal, electrical and chemical properties, with applications in a wide variety of industries including transportation vehicles, concrete, electronic devices, textiles, ink, coatings, lubricants, tires and agriculture. Carbon nanofibre is 40 times stronger and four times lighter than steel.
NANOTECH MANUFACTURING PROJECT WILL BE A WORLD FIRST
NEW RCMP FORENSIC LAB TARGETS LEED GOLD STANDARDS Each year, the RCMP’s National Forensic Laboratory Services (NFLS) processes thousands of requests from police agencies across the country for forensic services, in areas such as biology (DNA), toxicology, trace evidence, anti-counterfeiting, and firearms and toolmark identification. These services play a vital role in criminal investigations. This summer, the RCMP took ownership of its new laboratory facility in Surrey, B.C., which replaces the existing 45-year-old Vancouver laboratory. This new facility, which is targeted to meet LEED Gold environmental standards, features advanced telecommunications systems and specialized workstations designed to fulfill lab operating requirements. “As the RCMP looks to its future as a modern, advanced police service, we will continue to prioritize acquiring new technology that will ensure our long-term capabilities,” says RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki. In 2018–2019, NFLS processed 17,154 forensic service requests.
This new facility features advanced telecommunications systems and specialized workstations designed to fulfill lab operating requirements. BIOLAB BUSINESS FA L L 2 0 1 9
The Government of Canada is investing $40 million in CBN Nano Technologies’ (CBNNT) venture to become the first in the world to commercialize technology that manufactures products at the atomic level. The company’s $220-million nanotechnology project will be the first in the world to undertake atomically precise manufacturing on a commercial scale. This new technology will establish Canada as the global leader in advanced manufacturing processes in a variety of sectors, with potential applications for advanced health care treatments, reducing pollution, building highperformance computing capabilities and producing super-efficient solar energy. “Nanotechnology and nanomanufacturing represent the next frontier for advanced manufacturing,” says the Honourable Navdeep Bains. “This investment will create hundreds of highly skilled jobs and make a difference in Canadians’ lives by improving health care treatments and helping produce super-efficient solar energy.”
A NEW CENTRE FOR CLIMATE CHANGE RESEARCH Funding was announced this summer to build a 45,000-sq.ft. research facility in St. Peter’s Bay, P.E.I., to house state-of-theart research centres for the internationally recognized University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) Climate Research Lab and Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation. The new facility will serve as a living laboratory that allows for unlimited access to nearby wetlands, forests and coastal habitats directly affected by climate change.
The governments of Canada and Prince Edward Island are investing over $9.7 million in this project, while UPEI is also contributing over $4.8 million.
COAST-TO-COAST CHARGING FOR ELECTRIC VEHICLES IS UNDERWAY
Over 500 fast chargers are built or planned this year, with hundreds more expected over the next two years.
OFF-GRID CLEAN ENERGY FOR ALBERTA In August, the Government of Canada announced a $4.5-million investment in a solar energy and energy storage project for Fort Chipewyan, Alberta. The Government of Alberta is also contributing $3.3 million to the project, which will create more than 40 middle-class jobs during construction. The project will result in 20 per cent of electricity generation for the community coming from renewable sources. Upon completion, a new 2.2-megawatt solar farm will complement an existing 400 kilowatt installation, making it the largest off-grid solar project in Canada. In addition, a battery storage system and micro-grid control system will improve reliability of the grid. The project’s combined solar and battery energy storage system will displace 650,000 litres of diesel fuel per year, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1,743 tonnes annually. The project will be owned by Three Nations Energy, a Limited Partnership formed by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Mikisew Cree First Nation and Fort Chipewyan Métis Local 125 — three neighbouring Indigenous groups in Fort Chipewyan. ATCO, an energy infrastructure company, will be a partner in the project. Funding for the project comes from the Clean Energy for Rural and Remote Communities program. The six-year, $220-million program aims to reduce reliance on diesel in rural and remote communities by deploying and demonstrating renewable energy, encouraging energy efficiency and building local skills and capacity. It is part of the Government of Canada’s Investing in Canada infrastructure plan, a more than $180-billion investment over 12 years in public transit projects, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation routes and Canada’s rural and northern communities.
Canada’s energy-efficiency sector supported 436,000 jobs in 2018; this is expected to grow by 8.3% in 2019.
The Government of Canada has committed to use 100% clean electricity in all federal buildings by 2025.
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The Government of Canada announced a $4.6-million investment for Petro-Canada, a Suncor business, to build 92 electric vehicle (EV) fast chargers in its coastto-coast network. The first completed station, in Stewiacke, Nova Scotia, will be part of a larger network of more than 50 Petro-Canada locations, each with two charging units on site. This is part of the government’s $182.5-million investment to build a coast-to-coast charging network for electric vehicles and support other zero- and low-carbon demonstration and deployment projects. Over 500 fast chargers are built or planned this year, with hundreds more expected over the next two years. Through Budget 2019, a further $130 million is being invested in charging infrastructure, and a new incentive, worth up to $5,000, is available for Canadians who purchase or lease a zero-emission vehicle.
ENERGY INNOVATIONS THAT ARE CHANGING OUR WORLD Biobatteries & e-skins
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Associate Professor Seokheun (Sean) Choi and his research team at Binghamton University, State University of New York, developed a biobased paper battery that uses bacteria to produce power. On a piece of chromatography paper, a ribbon of silver nitrate is placed under a layer of wax to create a cathode, while conductive polymer is applied on a separate area to act as the anode – the piece is then folded together, and a few drops of bacteria-filled liquid are added. The elements interact to produce power generated by the microbes’ cellular respiration. “Papertronics have recently emerged as a simple and low-cost way to power disposable point-of-care diagnostic sensors,” Choi explains. “We are excited about this because microorganisms can harvest electrical power from any type of biodegradable source, like wastewater, that is readily available. I believe this type of paper biobattery can be a future power source for papertronics.” The design could revolutionize the use of biobatteries as a power source in remote, dangerous and resourcelimited areas. Different folding and stacking methods can significantly improve power and current outputs. Although it would take millions of paper batteries to power a common 40-watt light bulb, they can produce enough power to run biosensors that monitor glucose levels in diabetes patients, detect pathogens in a body or perform other life-saving functions. Another biobattery recently developed by Choi in collaboration with Professor Omowunmi Sadik, from the Binghamton University Chemistry Department, uses a hybrid of paper and engineered polymers that easily biodegrades in water. The polymer-paper structures are lightweight, low-cost and flexible. This year, the National Science Foundation awarded a $452,000 grant to Choi and his associates at Binghamton University for research to generate power from human sweat, using the metabolisms of sweateating bacteria incorporated into a flexible, stretchable and self-healing electronics “skin,” or e-skin, which mimics the functionalities of human skin. “The proposed sweat-powered batteries will be based on microbial fuel cells (MFCs), which will exploit sweat-eating bacteria to transform the chemical energy of sweat into electrical power,” Choi explains. “Excitement is building for scavenging power from sweat, as it is the most suitable energy source for skin-contacting devices.” E-skins have recently emerged as a novel platform for electronics, taking on more important roles in health diagnostics, therapeutics and monitoring. Stand-alone and self-sustained e-skins are essential to providing reliable, effective and sometimes life-saving functions. Choi believes these devices are the future of technology: “With the development of stretchable, biocompatible and selfhealing electronic materials, significant research efforts are dedicated to the seamless and intimate integration of electronics with human skin, which will produce breakthroughs in human-machine interfaces, health monitoring, transdermal drug delivery and soft robotics. As the emerging technologies of artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things are advancing at a rapid pace, e-skins will definitely be one of the ultimate forms of next-generation electronics.”
Electric vehicles Lithium-ion battery pack prices averaged $1,160 per kWh in 2010, dropping to $176 per kWh in 2018. BloombergNEF estimates the prices could drop below $100 by 2024.
China: In 2018, with sales topping 1.1 million, this country purchased more than half of all EVs sold worldwide; China also makes more than half of the world’s EV batteries. There are already around 200 million electric bicycles, scooters and motorbikes in China. France: By 2040, the country plans to ban sales of all gas- and diesel-powered cars. Japan: Toyota Motor Corp. is investing $13.9 billion into its solid-state battery operations, with plans for half of its global sales to be EVs by 2025. Norway: By 2025, only 100 per cent electric or hybrid cars can be sold. Many other countries (including Canada) are developing similar targets.
Australia: In late 2017, the world’s first solar-powered train started running in New South Wales, along a threekilometre track that had been inoperable for more than a decade. The Byron Bay Railroad Company refurbished two vintage rail cars (dating to 1949 and 1962), adding
The Byron Bay solar train in Australia
roof-mounted solar panels that generate up to 6.5kW of power and replacing one of the diesel engines with a pair of electric traction motors, traction inverters and a lithium-ion battery bank; the other engine was replaced with a clean-burning diesel unit that acts as a backup power source in case of an electrical fault, and also provides weight and balance. All lighting was replaced with LEDs. A large array of solar panels on the train storage shed roof are capable of producing an additional 30kW. Over a 12-month period, the combined solar generation is enough to power the 100-passenger train daily, plus 17.5 three-person homes for a year; surplus energy is exported to the grid. The train is also equipped with a regenerative braking system that turns the traction motors into generators during braking to recharge the batteries. The lightweight aluminum rail cars can travel at speeds up to 115 km/h. Costa Rica: 2018 was the fourth year in a row that the country generated more than 98 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources. Hydroelectric plants generated more than 70 per cent, followed by wind at more than 15 per cent and geothermal at more than 8 per cent; solar and biomass each generated less than 1 per cent. Denmark: In 2017, the country set a world record by supplying 43 per cent of its electricity consumption by wind power.
The bio-based paper battery developed by Sean Choi
India: As part of the Indian governmentâ€™s National Solar Mission, Indian Railways plans to commission 1,000 megawatts of solar power across its network by 2020, with another 200 MW from wind power plants. With more than 20 million passengers daily, the railway company consumes nearly two per cent of the nationâ€™s power. The overall reduction in fossil fuel use and other energysaving initiatives are expected to cut emissions by at least 457 million tonnes of CO2 over a 30-year period. (cont. on next page)
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Germany: In the first half of 2018, the country generated enough renewable energy to power every household for a year.
Sean Choi and Omowuanmi Sadik 11
The International Renewable Energy Agency reports that renewable energy will be cheaper than fossil fuels as early as next year.
Worldwide renewable energy investments grew to $297 billion in 2016 (the last full year of data), while only $143 billion was spent on fossil fuels and nuclear power. (cont. from previous page)
Nicaragua: The country plans to use at least 90 per cent renewable energy by 2020. The majority of its renewable power is now generated by wind, with recent estimates at 20 to 30 per cent of total electricity generation. Scotland: In October 2018, the country generated 98 per cent of its electricity from wind power. United States: In early 2019, Amazon.com announced three new renewable energy projects as part of its long-term goal to use 100 per cent renewable energy to power Amazon Web Services (AWS). In 2018, AWS was already using more than 50 per cent renewable energy, but the upcoming wind generator projects in Ireland, Sweden and California are expected to generate more than 670,000 megawatt hours of energy annually. In combination with AWS’s previous renewable energy sites, the company expects to generate the equivalent to powering more than 262,000 homes, or a city the size of Nashville, Tennessee. In total, Amazon has enabled 53 wind and solar projects worldwide; the company also recently announced its goal to make all shipments net zero carbon, with 50 per cent of all shipments net zero by 2030.
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COMPACT WIND POWER TURBINE WINS DYSON AWARD Researchers from the UK’s Lancaster University developed an award-winning wind power prototype, the O-Wind Turbine, which is a small, 25cm plastic sphere with multiple vents to catch the wind, regardless of direction. Spinning on a single axis, the omnidirectional device can utilize horizontal and vertical drafts. Last year it won the James Dyson Award grand prize; the inventors hope to launch the product to market within five years, and plan to adapt the technology for ocean applications.
Also this year, Chicago became the largest U.S. city to commit to 100 per cent renewable energy before mid-century. The city passed a resolution to use 100 per cent renewable energy in buildings by 2035, and electrification of the region’s bus fleet by 2040. More than 100 other U.S. cities have adopted clean energy goals.
Bloomberg’s New Energy Outlook 2018 forecasts that by 2050, wind and solar technology will provide almost 50% of total electricity globally.
Yaseen Noorani and Nicholas Orellana won the global Dyson Award with their turbine design.
WORLDWIDE NEWS LAB REPORT
TAKING ACTION AGAINST WASTEFUL LABS (via labconscious.com)
What is the focus of your lab group's research? Our lab studies developmental genetics with a focus on single-cell RNA-sequencing and time-lapse imaging of C.elegans embryos. How did you become interested in laboratory sustainability? Labs use huge amounts of energy and produce megatons of waste. As a biologist, my fascination with the complex beauty of nature coupled with the irony of trampling nature, to better understand it, frustrates me. So I do what I can to lessen this negative impact of our work. You started the glass petri plate pilot study in 2015, before most scientists were thinking about the volume of lab plastic they used. What was the final outcome of that project? Our lab, like many, consumes hundreds to thousands of petri dishes per month, and therefore a switch to reusable glass petri dishes has saved tons of energy and landfill space. One pound of polystyrene petri dishes costs 11.28 kWh of energy, 20.54 gal. of water, creates 0.113 lb. of solid waste and emits 2.51 lb. of CO2 (worldcentric.org/sustainability/energy-savings). On top of all this, there is the energy and CO2 emissions involved in shipping all of the polystyrene petri dishes to the labs and then removing them for disposal. Finally, there is the cost of megatons of landfill space. Fossil fuel combustion from industry, including plastic-manufacturing, accounts for 14 per cent of total U.S. CO2 emissions (www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/ co2.html). More specifically, UPenn researchers purchase 400,000 disposable petri dishes per year. This petri dish waste, if lined up, would fill the length of the state of Pennsylvania. In contrast, glass culture dishes are only manufactured and shipped once, and
Using glass prevents pollution by generating 3.6 times less CO2 than plastic.
would only enter landfills when broken. Once the glass petri dishes were in place, did they require more time to use? It is definitely more work to use them for my autoclave worker and myself, but not for my labmates. The agar has to be removed, then I soak them in bleach-water overnight, then I wipe the writing off of them and dry them, then my autoclave worker has to wash them and then autoclave them. What series of steps was involved in setting up the glass petri dish pilot? I brooded over all the waste in my lab for years. Then I brought up using reusable glass petri dishes to my boss, who expected that it would be a lot of extra cost and labour. However, a lab mate and the autoclave worker promised that they would support me, so I applied to a Green Fund grant through the universityâ€™s sustainability department, which I won. I used that grant to purchase our labâ€™s glass petri dishes and a petri dish rack for the dishes to be washed in the glassware washer. Then I had to figure out the pipeline for the cycling of petri dishes and overcome some biases against using glass, like that they would be less sterile (they are not). Good communication with everyone in the lab was important, as well as getting the department business office in the loop. Now we are cycling through pretty efficiently and our lab is using almost half glass and half plastic. What factors should scientists consider when switching to glass petri dishes? Remember that you are always going to have those times when you are waiting for something like an incubation or a centrifuge step. It sounds like a lot of work but it is really easy to integrate this into your week. It is going to be a lot smoother in terms of workload if your building/ department has a dedicated dishwasher/autoclave worker. Would you say that any research lab growing bacterial cultures on petri plates could switch to glass? Yes, definitely. Even if they do half and half, it will make a difference. It is just as sterile, and your lab will save money in the long-term. Do you have any other helpful tips? I have also started processing the plastic petri dishes similarly for recycling, although I have ambiguous feelings about the way recycling is done, with all the shipping and fossil fuels involved. So if you canâ€™t manage to do glass, I would encourage labs to at least buy biodegradable petri dishes or process your petris for recycling. If you are seriously considering using glass, please feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Elicia Preston, research scientist and lab manager in the Genetics department at the Perelman School of Medicine/University of Pennsylvania, took action to reduce plastic waste in the laboratory by switching to glass petri plates. Data shared by the University of Cambridge Sustainable Labs and generated by the University of Edinburgh, based on usage and conversion factors sourced through the UK Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, reported that labs produce plastic waste representing 2000 times the emissions of lab glass waste. Using glass prevents pollution by generating 3.6 times less CO2 than plastic.
HOW DIAGNOSTIC & RESE ARCH FACILITIES CAN DECREASE EMISSIONS BY JANA MANOLAKOS
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ake a look at a map of the electricity grid and you’ll be able to pinpoint where the research and diagnostic facilities are located. Other than data centres, they’re the sites using the most power. A major frontier in energy efficiency – staying ahead of electricity use – is a challenge taken up by laboratories and organizations like McGill University, the Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care and LifeLabs. According to McGill, a fume hood with a sash opening of 50 per cent 24/7 will consume the equivalent energy of four typical Canadian households in a year. When you factor in the number of laboratories in the country using fume hoods and fume extraction systems, electricity consumption quickly adds up – and so do the costs. Sustainable Labs Canada points out that the federal government alone has almost 200 laboratory sites across Canada where scientific research is being conducted in over a dozen major fields of scientific interest. Almost every province and territory directly owns and operates one or more research facilities. Canada has more than 80 degree-granting universities, all with campus research facilities. There are nine major research parks across the country, including both public and privately owned, while at least 40 research hospitals across the country collectively generate over $2 billion in research income annually. Collectively, these facilities use a lot of power. Since 2006, the Government of Canada has invested billions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by boosting energy efficiency as well as clean energy technologies and the production of cleaner energy and fuels. One such initiative was a study conducted by the Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care, with funding from Natural Resources Canada and BC Hydro, looking at power consumption of MRIs, CT scans and X-rays. Released in late 2016, the study was conducted in partnership with Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, University Health Network, SickKids and the University of Toronto. The report made recommendations on purchasing protocols, behavioural guidelines and cooling requirements. Coalition co-founder Kent Waddington explains, “The work we did centred on learning more about the potential to have diagnostic imaging equipment Energy Star certified. We did it to see how much energy these machines use when in operation, idling or shut off.” The researchers discovered machines that were constantly idling or on low power mode consumed more energy over the long run when compared to actively running equipment, which is often turned off when not in use. At McGill University, studies like this are taken seriously. Known for its stunning architecture and world-class academics, McGill University
Sustaining aquaculture As Stefanie Colombo descends into the depths of the ocean, the only audible sound comes from her rhythmic breathing, transformed into streams of shimmering bubbles by her diving apparatus. A divemaster, Colombo is Canada Research Chair in Aquaculture Nutrition and Assistant Professor at Dalhousie University. To her, the ocean “feels like a second home,”which she has sought to protect since her first time snorkeling at age six with her parents in Hawaii. Colombo leads one leg of a five-part scientific study where researchers, funded in part by OFI and NSERC, are working with industry partners to improve aquaculture practices and examine fish health and resiliency. Her expertise lies in nutrition and production, making sure that fish grown for human consumption are healthy, grow fast and produce quality nutrition, without depleting the ocean. Colombo believes there is a tremendous need to improve sustainability and conserve the ocean’s food web by reducing the amount of wild fish used in feeds for carnivorous species like salmon. Her particular interest is in fatty acids, like omega-3s, for optimal fish health. Nestled on the south side of the Salmon River floodplain, close to the river's mouth, the town of Truro, Nova Scotia, is a provincial hub and home to Dalhousie’s Aquaculture Centre. Here, Colombo performs the bulk of her research, amid giant fish tanks teeming with salmon at all life stages, microscopes for studying cellular structures like those in intestinal tissues and freezers filled with biopsies. Modern mechanical systems, allow for precise environmental control for a wide variety of species, from cold-water marine fish and shellfish to tropical freshwater fish. A teaching lab, dry lab, two wet labs, algal production lab and aquatic rearing facilities are housed in 1,800 sq.ft. of space. It’s a versatile finfish system and feed production facility that enables experiments with all kinds of marine and freshwater species, in a range of water temperatures. Right now, Colombo is working on diets for Atlantic salmon that will help the industry reduce its reliance on fish meal and oil. “We are looking at micro-algae as a source of protein and fat for salmon,” she says, explaining that they are testing two products. “One is a meal, so it’s protein and fat – it’s basically freeze-dried micro-algae – and the other is oil.” These are included in the fish diets in different ratios to pinpoint the ideal mix of ingredients. At the facility’s feed mill, an extruder and steam pelleter prepare the experimental diets. “It’s pretty unique to have the aquaculture facility and the feed mill together on one campus,” Colombo notes. When she’s not in the lab working with her students, Colombo teaches a class on fish nutrition at Dalhousie’s Haley Institute of Animal Science and Aquaculture. And then there are the new projects, manuscripts and grants – work that she often does in collaboration with her mentors and research colleagues, Matthew Rise of Newfoundland’s Memorial University (MUN), Chris Parrish (MUN), and Dalhousie’s Jim Duston. A typical two-year project for Colombo costs about $200,000 for all of the analyses, student stipends and material for rearing fish. As she’s about to open her sixth study, those numbers can add up, so funding from OFI, NSERC and other grant sources is vital.
McGill University’s Sustainable Labs Guide for Researchers Available online (mcgill.ca/sustainability/files/sustainability/ sustainable-labs-guide-final-2017.pdf), the guide acknowledges that “research labs are generally energy guzzlers.” It points out that labs at McGill consume four times more energy per square foot than a typical Canadian household. While part of this energy usage is unavoidable in research, best practices can help labs become more efficient and environmentally friendly. Here are some suggestions offered by the guide.
Unless somebody is working under the hood, the sash should be shut at all times to properly contain substances while ensuring only the necessary airflow is exhausted from the lab. Awareness campaigns on the McGill campus demonstrated proper hood management could reduce energy use by 80 per cent, depending on the type of hood, ventilation system and lab setup. A lab fume hood, even when the sash is down, will still exhaust substantial air volumes. Hood decommissioning allows the complete shutdown of the hood and prevents people unaccustomed to the lab from using it and exposing themselves to potentially harmful chemicals, while maintaining appropriate levels of ventilation in the lab. This change can potentially save up to $2,500 per hood per year and is reversible.
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There are more than 1,000 freezers and refrigerators on the McGill campus. The least efficient, ultralow temperature freezers can consume as much as half the energy of a typical Canadian household in a year. Cooling equipment exhausts warm air into the room that adds to the cooling load of the building, puts a strain on building systems and can result in uncomfortable working conditions for lab users. Among best practices included in the guide, it suggests sharing cold rooms, purchasing energy-efficient equipment and proper maintenance, including regular defrosting and cleaning the coil at the back of appliances to avoid dust buildup.
Most research equipment uses energy to some degree, whether electricity (ovens, incubators, microscopes, etc.) or steam (autoclaves). Best practice dictates that equipment should be turned off and not be left idling. Appliances requiring warm-up time should be turned on in the morning and turned off when researchers leave the lab at the end of the day. The use of power bars is recommended as an easy way to turn equipment on or off quickly and efficiently.
can now add carbon neutrality to its reputation. It’s in the homestretch of a three-year climate and sustainability strategy, Vision 2020, aimed at achieving carbon neutrality by 2040. McGill is also one of several Canadian universities to earn gold-level recognition from STARS, a program of the U.S.-based Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. McGill now has its sights set on platinum, the association’s highest possible recognition. “We knew that if we were going to address climate change on campus, we needed to think beyond 2020. That is why we set these long-term targets,” says McGill’s Sustainability Director, François Miller. “McGill’s extensive collection of heritage buildings, as well as our research-intensive profile, make these targets a unique challenge, but this new plan sets out a roadmap for the long journey ahead.” In 2014, the university produced a comprehensive guideline for sustainable lab practices, with tips on efficient use of lab equipment such as refrigerators and freezers, hot plates, shakers, cooling baths and fume hoods. The goal was to engage the university community; promote and recognize efforts to reduce material, water and energy consumption while maximizing cost savings; and improve safety and accessibility through optimizing operations, training and awareness. Awareness is often the first step. “We’ve worked hard over the years to get the message out there that knowledge is transferrable – that the same mentality you use at home applies at work, too,” Waddington explains. “Shut your light and your computers off when not at work. You don’t need your scanner on all night when you are not there. If you see a dripping tap, report it. We all have a part to play in this, and that means looking at what we do every day at work and at home and making an effort to consume less, be more conscious of how we purchase, what we throw away and how much energy we use, because all of these little bits do add up.” That was the case for LifeLabs, a provider of laboratory diagnostic information and digital health connectivity systems. This May, the organization won its second Environmental Excellence Award from Practice Greenhealth, a U.S. organization dedicated to environmental sustainability in health care. The only lab in North America to receive the award, LifeLabs’ International Reference Lab in Toronto and Burnaby Reference Lab were recognized for sustainability and waste reduction. Among a number of environmental improvements such as installing an ozone treatment system to remove contaminants from water, LifeLabs converted more than 2,200 fixtures to LEDs in its facilities across Canada to increase energy efficiency and it took steps to convert 70 per cent of its mobile service fleet to hybrid vehicles.
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The US Department of Energy estimated that the medical equipment in a hospital makes up
“We’re honoured to be recognized for the innovation of our operations to promote environmental sustainability and waste reduction,” says Tanya Martin, VP of laboratory operations for LifeLabs. “It’s important for us to be an environmental leader in an industry that has historically produced a lot of waste. We believe we’re making a difference to the environmental sustainability of our communities.” Many of the steps a lab can take of the facility's are obvious, such as shutting off energy use. equipment when it is not being used. What is less obvious is how to motivate everyone to participate in saving energy and resources. Sometimes it comes down to numbers, and more importantly, dollars – in which case, this success story should help: The Timmins and District Hospital in Ontario was able to save more than $500,000 on its energy bills in the first year following an ambitious retrofit project that halved the number of fluorescent bulbs (from 8,000 to 4,000) and optimized the building control systems for heating and lighting, depending on hours of occupancy. In total, the energy efficiency project reduced the hospital’s yearly natural gas consumption by approximately 750,000 cubic metres.
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WE CAN BE
ZEROES MOHAWK COLLEGE’S RESEARCH CENTRE TA K E S T H E C R O W N A S C A N A D A’ S L A R G E S T NET-ZERO BUILDING BY MITCHELL BROWN
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sk Tony Cupido to talk about the Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation – a net-zero energy building that opened on the Mohawk College campus, in Hamilton, Ontario, at the start of the 2018 school year – and you’ll hear a sense of pride in his voice that will sound familiar to anyone who has ever spoken to a proud new parent. And like most babies, the object of Cupido’s affection comes complete with features designed to keep people awake. “We have two sensors in every room, a thermostat and a CO2 sensor,” explains Mohawk College’s research chair for sustainability and the college’s chief building and facilities officer at the time the Joyce Centre was being built. “We know that when the room gets occupied, the CO2 levels go up, so the system will adjust for that by providing additional air and cooling systems when needed so that people don’t feel uncomfortable. Staff and students tell us they love the new building – everyone likes the natural lighting, and it’s a very quiet building in terms of mechanical systems,” Cupido adds. In May 2018, the Joyce Centre became only the second project in Canada and the first institutional building to earn a Zero Carbon Building – Design certification through the Canada Green Building Council’s Zero Carbon Building Program. Comprised of nearly 97,000 sq. ft. of labs, workshops, lecture theatres and industry training facilities, the centre earns this designation with a host of innovative features, including:
Speaking of laboratories, the second and third floors are occupied by research labs for digital health technology, avionics, sustainable design and other related disciplines, grouped collaboratively in pairs separated by a buildingheight light well in the core of the building. The labs have the computer workstations and electronic teaching aids expected in a research facility with state-of-the-art equipment, but a combination of sourcing energy-efficient models and constant monitoring of energy use have resulted in a net-positive building – verified numbers show the building produced 76,000 kWh in the period between September 2018 and June 2019, almost 28 per cent more power than it consumed. Deploying mindful design principles is one way to lower the carbon footprint of a research facility; monitoring energy use is another. “This is an outstanding achievement, and the production percentage is anticipated to rise,” Cupido says, though adding process loads (the amount of energy that doesn’t go towards lighting, heating and other building systems) is one of the larger challenges in developing ultra-high efficiency facilities: “Plug or process loads need to be monitored. Each laboratory is metered for lighting and plug load use.” For all the building’s innovative features, what excites Cupido the most is the fact that no new technology is incorporated into the $55-million building. “In Japan and places in Europe, they’ve been using heat pump designs for years. Here (in North America), we’ve been stuck with conventional building systems for
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• a rooftop photovoltaic system that produces 500 kWp AC, enough carbon-free energy to power the new building; • a high-performance building envelope consisting of triple-pane glazing and insulated pre-cast panels, which help to minimize heat loss and to regulate cooling; • a variable refrigerant flow geoexchange heat pump system to provide heating and cooling; • 28 geothermal wells that draw energy from more than 600 feet below the building; • sensor-controlled LED lighting and abundant windows to minimize lighting requirements; • stormwater harvesting of up to 342,000 litres and high-efficiency plumbing fixtures; • green roof with extensive planted areas; • plus, exposed structural connections and mechanical/electrical systems in public areas as part of a “living laboratory” approach to education.
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decades. One thing I’m proud of as an engineer is that we pushed the bar up really high, and our project partners responded accordingly.” As Cupido recalls, the project came together in the spring of 2016, when Mohawk College applied for funding under the federal government’s $2-billion Strategic Infrastructure Fund for post-secondary institutions. Mohawk president Ron McKerlie challenged his people to think big, and they decided it wasn’t enough to merely upgrade existing campus facilities to make them more environmentally sustainable. Right from the start, Cupido says, there was a commitment to “go big” and demonstrate what a net-zero energy building could do. After a full academic year of operations, Cupido is happy the project is a resounding success, which doesn’t mean there haven’t been a few challenges along the way. Knowing that driving technological change means adopting a cultural shift to go with it, at the start of the school year the college trained “zero carbon ambassadors” to help their fellow students understand the building better, specifically the dos and don’ts that come with working and learning in a net-zero energy environment. (“There isn’t a plug everywhere,” Cupido says – a shift for today’s pluggedin generation, to be sure.) The bigger challenge he sees, though, is one that other operators of net-zero and energy-efficient buildings can sympathize with: a lack of trained personnel who can monitor the building’s numbers and adjust the systems as needed. “The analogy I like to use is the car,” Cupido explains. “You may have a good mechanic who understands internal combustion engines inside and out, but if you give him an electric vehicle to work on, then that requires a whole new set of skills. That’s where we are right now. We have a lot of people who are good at maintaining the buildings we have now, but what we need to bring net-zero energy buildings to the next level are more people trained to make sure the systems are working properly. We need people who understand energy production better, understand a building like this from a metering perspective.” And that, beyond the immediate cost and environmental benefits, is where the value of the Joyce Centre lies. Mohawk College is now developing a curriculum to help train the next generation of builders and maintenance people who will have the skills and knowledge needed to operate the buildings of the future – and this facility, home to the college’s Centre for Climate Change Management, will play a huge role in attracting those people. “I’m a strong advocate of leading by example,” Cupido explains. “If our students are going to change the world, then we can start with a building that exemplifies what can be done, with current technology.”
The bigger challenge of netzero and energy-efficient buildings is a lack of trained personnel who can monitor the building’s numbers and adjust the systems as needed.
FAST FACTS: Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation • The centre is home to new and existing programs offered through Mohawk’s School of Engineering Technology. • High-tech labs and classrooms host students in fields such as clean and renewable energy, sustainable design, technology automation, cyber security and materials manufacturing, among others. • The centre uses no natural gas onsite. The all-electric setup allows for the easiest route to low carbon for most buildings. • The centre’s 500 kW solar panel system generates 550,000 kWh of clean electricity per year, enough to power 45 Canadian homes.
Dr. Beatriz Molero Sanchez is transforming CO2 into profits
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BY MITCHELL BROWN
his year’s Mitacs Environmental Entrepreneur Award winner, Beatriz Molero Sanchez didn’t start out looking to save the planet – we can thank her music teacher for setting her on that path. “I started learning music when I was little,” she says. “Music theory is really complicated, and it’s all math – and because of that love of math, I later realized I loved science. I took chemistry because I was fascinated by it. It connects everything – it touches absolutely everything.” After completing her master’s degree in chemistry at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Sanchez moved from her native Spain to Calgary in 2011 where, as part of the Trans-Atlantic Science Student Exchange Program, she continued her research and completed a PhD while studying under Dr. Viola Birss, a world-renowned expert in electrochemistry (see sidebar). In partnership with another PhD student, Paul Addo, Sanchez recently turned her passion into launching SeeO2 Energy Inc., a clean-tech company focused on converting waste carbon dioxide into marketable and clean, high-value fuels and chemicals by using reversible fuel-cell technology. The process, which is focused on hightemperature electrolyzers and relies on a proprietary high-performance electrocatalyst material, can co-electrolyze water and captured CO2 to produce syngas (a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen) – a substance that can be converted into methanol, ammonia, substitute natural gas or synthetic liquid fuels. Or, the molecule can be broken down into carbon monoxide and pure oxygen, with the former used in such industries as electronics, fertilizer and polymer production and the latter used in medicine, among other fields. At the heart of SeeO2’s technology are circular building blocks, or cells, that come together to form stacks that capture carbon emissions. The cells that Sanchez worked on during her PhD were about one cm2 in area; their benchtop prototype consists of 15 larger cells (10x10 cm) grouped together in a “tall stack” to convert about 10 kg of CO2 per day. The idea is to place a monetary value on a company’s CO2 emissions, giving that company an incentive to capture and commodify those emissions instead of letting them fly off into the atmosphere and push record atmospheric CO2
levels even higher. “We’re trying to stop the increase of greenhouse gas emissions, and eventually reduce them,” Sanchez explains. “At the same time, we’re monetizing the process by giving businesses a valuable asset at the end. We need to have economically viable technologies so that industry will be willing to adopt them.” It’s such a brilliantly simple idea – turning waste products into usable goods – that it’s tempting to ask why anyone hasn’t thought about doing this before. They have, Sanchez admits, but it’s not as easy as you might think. “CO2 is a really stubborn molecule,” she says, explaining how the chemical properties of carbon dioxide – the same properties that lead to it being a long-lasting gas in the atmosphere – make it difficult to break apart and turn into other useful chemicals. But she and her team are proving that it can be done. “Like everything, it’s cheaper as you scale up – look at how far we’ve come with solar panels. But it takes a long time.” In just over a year, the company has grown to three full-time employees, 10 industry advisors and five board members. They have completed a successful benchtop prototype, and the company is now securing $1.5 million in seed funding to develop a larger-scale field test unit, with testing scheduled to start in the spring of 2020. The first companies to test the technology include a U.S.-based green plastic producer and ATCO Energy, a natural gas and electricity retailer. Commercial shipments are expected to start in 2021. “If our commercial-scale units were to be used by our end users, such as green plastics or petrochemicals producers, we would significantly decrease CO2 emissions equivalent to removing 100 million cars off the roads or 700,000 jet planes out of the skies. This technology has the potential to be used worldwide,” Sanchez explains, adding that companies in Europe and Asia are already expressing interest. “Taking research out of the lab and into the real world – it’s super important. We should be aware of what universities are doing, and how industry can help.”
Dr. Viola Birss is a professor of chemistry and has been a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Fuel Cells and Related Energy Systems at the University of Calgary since 2004. She has authored over 250 refereed scientific publications and is a world leader in the area of electrochemistry at surfaces and interfaces, and in nanomaterials development for a wide range of clean energy applications. Dr. Birss was a co-founder and leader of the Western Canada Fuel Cell Initiative and the pan-Canadian Solid Oxide Fuel Cells Canada (SOFCC) Research Network, and is currently the Scientific Director of CAESRTech (Calgary Advanced Energy Storage and Conversion Research Technology group) at the University of Calgary, a cluster composed of approximately 20 research groups (over 80 members) in science and engineering. She has received numerous prestigious scientific awards and honours and is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Society for Chemistry, and the Electrochemical Society. Dr. Birss is also involved in scientific collaborations with many national and international groups, as well as with numerous industry partners. She aims to improve fuel cells and produce energy devices of reduced cost, weight and size. Consequently, Dr. Birss is interested in the chemistry of thin film devices as employed in fuel cells, which has implications for the development of working biosensor devices. She studies the surface properties of novel materials that could optimize the electrocatalyst material and its connectivity to electrode layers, thus eliminating some of the key barriers to the commercialization of fuel cells. In addition, Dr. Birss is developing high-performance electrodes for both high-temperature solid oxide fuel cells and low-temperature cells operating with alcohol fuels. The electrodes must have high electronic conductivity and appropriate thermal expansion capabilities to do the job. Exotic materials are being employed in these tests in order to understand how contaminants, such as hydrogen sulfide, can interfere with the performance of the fuel cells and result in catastrophic failure.
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Is THIS the
for Clean Energy?
General Fusion pushes commercialized fusion energy forward BY JANA MANOLAKOS
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In roughly 10 years from now, when you turn on the lights, the source of that power might come from a dense ball of energy as bright and powerful as the Sun – delivered from a nuclear fusion plant just down the road.
nce the stuff of science fiction, nuclear fusion is entering the everyday. Its promise of clean, cheap, abundant energy is a rallying cry for innovators like Canada’s General Fusion, which is one of seven fusion labs listed by the Canadian Nuclear Society and the second = largest privately run facility in North America. The company in Burnaby, B.C., has come a long way since its founding in 2002 and is making good on its goal to transform the world’s energy supply with what it says will be the fastest, most practical and costcompetitive path to commercial fusion power. Sparked by Dr. Michel Laberge, who completed proof-of-principle experiments in 2006, and supported by venture capital funds, the General Fusion team has grown to more than 70 employees, including 60 scientists and engineers from leading fusion research institutes like L’École Polytechnique in France, the UK’s Culham Centre for Fusion Technology, the Joint Institute for High Temperatures at the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Kyushu University in Japan.
THE WHAT/HOW/WHY OF NUCLEAR FUSION Not to be confused with fission – the nuclear reaction used today in the five CANDU (Canadian deuterium-uranium) reactors in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick – nuclear fusion is the same process that powers the Sun. On paper, fusion seems simple enough: Smash the nuclei of two hydrogen atoms together with such force and speed to overcome their natural repulsion and allow the forces to fuse them into a helium nucleus. The weight of the helium nucleus is slightly less than the two hydrogen atoms, and that difference in weight is where this immense energy comes from. It’s easier said than done. Let’s return to the Sun, nature’s own fusion lab: Deep at its core, where the pressure is 340 billion times greater than on Earth, 600 million tons of hydrogen are converted into helium every second. Add to that the heat needed to force the atoms together – in the Sun’s case, that’s 15 million degrees Celsius – and you have the perfect conditions for nuclear fusion to occur. These are the same conditions that advanced fusion labs like those at General Fusion have recreated. But it has not been without challenges. Using a variety of means like lasers and super-magnets, in the last few decades scientists have been able to sustain fusion reactions for only seconds at a time – not enough to make it a viable source of energy. There’s also the matter of containing the immense heat required, and supplying the power necessary to fuse the atoms. But the payback for General Fusion, according to its CEO Christofer Mowry, is well worth it. The company is pushing forward with building a prototype nuclear power plant run on fusion that can deliver energy to an entire community, while demonstrating a practical approach to commercialization.
“It is an excellent solution to the problems of global climate change and long-term energy security. In addition, fusion energy research pushes the bounds of fundamental and applied research in areas ranging from plasma physics, to materials science, to high-performance computing, to power engineering, to name just a few areas,” Mowry notes in the company’s blog. “At General Fusion, we are perfecting a hybrid solution which seeks to combine the best of the high temperature steady-state and pulsed high-pressure fusion processes to unlock practical fusion energy, producing millisecond bursts of power that are easier to create and manage.” A PRICELESS PROTOTYPE General Fusion’s power plant prototype conjures a futuristic, almost alien world with its massive metal sphere studded with hundreds of powerful pistons. Its magnetized target fusion system has three main components: a plasma injector, which supplies the fuel; an array of pistons, to compress the fuel; and a chamber of spinning liquid metal, to hold the fuel and capture the energy. Driven by steam, the pistons push on the liquid metal liner, which in turn compresses plasma of superhot hydrogen gas inside, creating conditions for fusion. General Fusion’s Chief Technology Officer Michael Delage explains that “underneath the pragmatically industrial exterior are cutting-edge electronics that give these pistons an incredible level of control.” To create fusion with this system, the plasma needs to be kept the right shape while compressing it. That means precisely controlling when each piston will push down on the liquid metal, a molten lead-lithium. “By developing high-speed control electronics that synchronize the position of the pistons during compression, General Fusion has achieved the level of precision required to hold the plasma stable,” Delage says. Using these electronics, General Fusion has achieved piston timing that can simultaneously compress and heat the plasma. The plasma in turn heats the metal in the liner, and then the hot metal liquid is sent to a heat exchanger which generates electricity via a steam turbine. And it’s all clean energy. Guided by advanced computer simulation, General Fusion is developing and optimizing each of these components as it prepares to build a demonstration fusion power plant. Since the prototype will ring in at several hundred million dollars, a number of existing funders, like Jeff Bezos as well as the Canadian and Malaysian governments, are expected to step up to bat. General Fusion is funded by several other investors, among them Cleantech, Cenovus Energy and Microsoft, with whom it partnered to apply artificial intelligence in a bid to accelerate fusion energy. Last October, the Canadian government announced a $49.3-million investment in General Fusion for the largescale prototype plant, an investment that couldn’t come soon enough as the world grapples with a power-hungry population.
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In 2016, General Fusion played a central role in the release of a report that laid out a path for Canada as a major player in nuclear fusion. Fusion 2030 is a collaboration among universities, industry and researchers that addresses future energy needs, environmental protection and economic viability – while calling for a $125 million federal investment over the next five years. By the end of 2016, General Fusion had received over $100 million in funding from a global group of investors and the Government of Canada’s Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) fund.
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FROM FUMES Carbon Engineering transforms airborne CO2 into clean fuel
BY JANA MANOLAKOS
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he UN reports that total annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2017 reached a record high of 53.5 gigatonnes, an increase of 0.7 percent compared with 2016. There’s no arguing that CO2 poses a serious threat to the planet and humanity; there’s simply too much of it in the atmosphere for Earth’s natural processes to absorb. It’s out of balance, and like a thick thermal blanket it’s trapping heat, pushing the planet closer to the 2 ºC limit for global warming set by the 2015 Paris Agreement. One of the solutions that the UN suggests to reverse this dangerous trajectory is “widespread” use of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. That’s where companies like Carbon Engineering Ltd. (CE), from Squamish, B.C., are ready to step in. Its pioneering technology captures CO2 directly out of the atmosphere. Since opening its doors in 2009, CE has developed and demonstrated a Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology that can be scaled up to grab megatonnes of CO2 directly from the atmosphere. The company’s complementary AIR TO FUELSTM (A2F) technology convert atmospheric carbon dioxide by combining it with hydrogen from water, powered by renewable energy sources, into ultra-low-carbon fuels. These fuels are produced with significantly less land and water requirements than biofuels, are cleaner burning than fossil fuels and can power existing cars, trucks and airplanes without any modifications. The process has minimal impacts on food production, land use and water security. This June, CE received a $25-million investment from the Canadian government to help advance the global commercialization of its clean energy technologies. CE has attracted a host of private investors, global energy companies and top venture capital firms, including: Bill Gates, Murray Edwards, BHP, Chevron Technology Ventures, Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, Bethel Lands Corporation, Carbon Order, First Round Capital, Lowercase Capital, Rusheen Capital Management, Starlight Ventures and Thomvest Asset Management (an affiliate of Peter J. Thomson). Additionally, all of CE’s board, management and many of CE’s staff have personally invested into the company. This builds on the support shown to CE from Canadian
In 2017, total GHG emissions reached a record high of 53.5 gigatonnes. One gigatonne is equivalent in weight to 5.5 million blue whales Steve Oldham, CEO
David Keith, Founder and Board Member
According to a 2014 UN Report on
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provincial and federal government agencies, including Natural Resources Canada, the B.C. Innovative Clean Energy Fund, Sustainable Development Technology Canada, Emissions Reduction Alberta, NRC-IRAP and the Western Innovation Initiative. Another investment of US$68 million this past March highlights growing commercial interest in DAC. Carbon Engineering’s CEO Steve Oldham explains, “This financing round – the largest of its kind into a DAC company – shows the growing recognition of both the benefits and commercial readiness for our DAC tech.” He says DAC technology can be deployed to help companies and nations meet their climate change commitments and achieve significant emissions reductions, while at the same time creating opportunities for jobs, economic growth, and investment. Some of the funding will go towards building CE’s Newport Innovation Centre in Squamish, B.C., which will include an Advanced Development Facility and a fully integrated DAC and A2F plant capable of capturing 4.5 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere daily, producing at least 320 litres of ultra-lowcarbon fuel. It is expected that the facility will be a model for air treatment infrastructure on a global level. “Climate experts tell us that, alongside other mitigation solutions, carbon removal technologies like DAC are going to be essential if we hope to decarbonize in time to avoid the
Intergovernmental Climate Change, the energy supply sector accounted for almost 50% of all GHG emissions, making it the largest contributor to global GHG emissions. Despite the Kyoto Protocol, GHG emissions of this sector increased 36% between 2000–2010, where the major contributors were CO2 emissions from coal (43%), oil (36%) and gas (20%).
worst impacts of climate change,” says Oldham. “These carbon removal technologies need to be deployed widely and at large enough scales to be climate-relevant. With an increasing focus worldwide on the need to transition to a low carbon economy, companies that provide cost-effective and scalable solutions for lowering carbon levels will be leaders in an emerging global economy.”
THE BURNING QUESTION
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HOW TO BUILD BETTER BATTERIES? BY JANA MANOLAKOS
o achieve a â€œgreenâ€? economy, the combination of renewable energy sources and enhanced battery storage shows promise for transforming the way we live. Electric vehicle production is expected to increase thirtyfold by 2030, while emerging battery technologies like zinc, lithium-ion and bio-based cells are transforming off-grid power generation. The global battery race is on for bigger storage capacity, faster charging and cheaper price points, so we asked academic and commercial leaders in the battery arena the same burning question: What are your teams doing to advance battery technology in support of a healthier, greener planet? Here is what they told us:
John F. Elliott Professor of Materials Chemistry, MIT Canadian Don Sadoway’s research seeks to establish the scientific underpinnings for technologies that make efficient use of energy and natural resources in an environmentally sound manner. This spans engineering applications and fundamental science. The overarching theme of his work is electrochemistry in non-aqueous media.
“My focus is on inventing new battery chemistry that will address the shortcomings of today’s lithium-ion technology, which is proving to be inadequate in large-format settings such as EVs and stationary storage. My design parameters include cost and sustainability right from the outset. The main challenge that I face is unwillingness to fund the necessary work. Research sponsors and investors alike suffer from the aversion to bold, imaginative concepts that are not riskfree. When likelihood of success is a key determinant for investment, then radical innovation will be filtered out. That leads to innovation paralysis.”
Co-Founder, Salient Energy A startup based in Kitchener, Ontario, Salient Energy’s proprietary cathode materials store energy in zinc, which allows their batteries to have relatively high energy density. It also allows for traditional battery designs that are compatible with standard manufacturing equipment. This means that a cheaper, safer and longer-lasting battery can be made in existing battery factories around the world. “At Salient Energy, we believe that stationary energy storage is an important problem that deserves its own solution. That’s why we worked from the atom up to build a new type of battery that would prioritize a low lifetime cost and intrinsic safety. We live in a world where solar and wind can produce electricity cheaper than fossil fuels. Our goal is to make the cost of storing this clean, inexpensive electricity so low that there is simply no economic reason for fossil fuel–based generation to exist. “I think the biggest challenge facing energy innovators is how difficult it can be to display rapid progress. It can take years to develop a commercial prototype, and this is just the
start of a multi-year process of getting significant market penetration. Since the opportunities in energy are so massive, it ends up being worth it, but it is super important to find the right partners and investors who understand this timeline. We are extremely lucky to be supported by a combination of awesome investors, great corporate partners and generous government programs, but I worry that the rate of innovation in energy is below where it could be due to the rarity of this support.”
Founder, Redrock Power Systems Redrock’s mission is to develop and commercialize fuel cell solutions for use in the marine industry by working with the world’s best suppliers and industry-leading customers. Redrock’s founders have decades of heavy-duty fuel cell development and systems integration experience, and they’re dedicated to bringing that experience to the marine market. The P.E.I.-based company recently received a $15,000 grant from Transport Canada for its Niagara ferry proposal. “Our company is developing high-power hydrogen fuel cell systems particularly suited for maritime applications. We believe that battery technology is capable of handling a portion of the short-distance maritime market, but battery solutions become too big, heavy and expensive when scaled up to the
Ships accounted for approximately 1 billion tonnes of GHG emissions over the period 2007 to 2012. According to the International Council on Clean Transportation, total shipping CO2 emissions increased from 910 million tonnes to 932 million tonnes (+2.4%) from 2013 to 2015.
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Electric vehicle production is expected to increase thirtyfold
sizes needed for longer distances. Hydrogen fuel cells are a lighter weight solution and simpler to scale to higher energy requirements. “The market for this technology is worldwide, but we first need a local demonstration project in order to refine the product and to build credibility. This is one of our key challenges: Despite the (complex) myriad of funding opportunities available in Canada, it is exceptionally difficult to attract a Canadian vessel operator in order to trial this advanced technology. This is why we are looking to operate our own fuel cell ferry between St. Catharines and Toronto.”
by 2030, while emerging battery technologies like zinc, lithium-ion and bio-based cells are transforming off-grid power generation.
Director, Strategy & Operations, NRStor Toronto-based NRStor is an industry-leading energy storage project developer, providing innovative solutions based on a unique depth of expertise in energy storage technologies and the benefits they can provide across the supply chain.
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“Ensuring there is enough electricity supply to meet demand on a second-to-second basis is a balancing act (literally) for grid operators. Today, their task is made more difficult with the growth of intermittent renewables, unpredictable weather, increasingly sensitive electrical loads, aging infrastructure – and no effective means to store energy en masse. Think of trying to run a retail store without warehouse space. That’s how the grid operates in realtime today. “Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) including energy storage have the opportunity to transform our electricity grid, adding much needed flexibility, which can lower costs, improve reliability and enable a more sustainable energy ecosystem. “At NRStor we work with industry-leading manufacturers that develop batteries (chemical), flywheels (mechanical/ kinetic) and compressed air energy storage (mechanical/ thermal). We have deployed several first-of-kind technologies and are working on exciting projects that reduce costs for our industrial sector, improve reliability and lower costs for residential customers, take remote communities off diesel fuel, and offer lower-cost clean alternatives to large-scale GHGemitting generators (eg. coal/gas). “Energy storage technology prices continue to drop dramatically, while performance continues to improve. Major barriers impeding the growth of the sector are lack of experience, education and regulation. Right now our energy marketplace is not properly designed to accommodate or effectively value DERs, and we do not have the decades of experience we have with traditional infrastructure. The fastpaced growth of the energy storage market has also created issues for regulators who cannot keep up with the fast rate of
technological innovation. However, according to Bill Gates, this degree of innovation is necessary to achieve an ‘energy miracle,’ which could allow us to ‘invent [our] way out of the coming collision with planetary climate change.’ 1 “Despite these barriers, storage resources are still growing rapidly around the world – often led by sustainable energy policy shifts or private-sector investment. In Australia, Elon Musk and Tesla recently finished building the world's biggest battery in less than 100 days.2 Projects like this are becoming more and more common as utilities, regulators, the privatesector and academia begin to recognize the real potential of energy storage. In recent years, many progressive utilities have announced massive energy storage targets. The U.S. market alone saw a 232 per cent increase in energy storage deployments from 2018 to 2019.3 “While climate change may be one of the biggest challenges we face, it may also be one of the best opportunities for us to take a leadership role in developing tomorrow’s low-carbon economy – enabled with innovative energy storage.”
If you have thoughts on this topic, send them to email@example.com and we may publish your comments on our website: BioLabmag.com
www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/11/we-need-an-energymiracle/407881/ 2 www.theverge.com/2017/11/23/16693848/elon-musk-worlds-biggestbattery-100-days 3 www.utilitydive.com/news/us-energy-storage-market-sees-232-year-onyear-growth/556186/ 1
EXCLUSIVE NEW LINE OF BOROSILICATE GLASSWARE
NEXT-GENERATION LAB MINI-DISTILLATION ANALYZER PAC introduces OptiPMD, ISL’s latest version of its robust and portable micro-distillation analyzer. OptiPMD combines 15 years of experience with the latest technology to offer a user-friendly solution that significantly reduces the need for training. OptiPMD follows ASTM D7345, which is approved in more than 10 fuel specifications, including gasoline with up to 20 per cent ethanol, diesel, jet fuel, kerosene and bio-diesels. OptiPMD performs a physical atmospheric distillation in just 10 minutes using only 10 ml of sample. This allows faster decisions for process optimization and potentially save millions in off-spec products. paclp.com
CEILING-MOUNTED FILTRATION UNITS DESIGNED FOR USE WITH HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES Purair SKY ceiling-mounted filtration units are designed to protect laboratory personnel and the environment in areas where hazardous substances are handled. These units feature a dynamic filtration chamber with a sliding filter clamp that allows for simple, quick filter changes. Units come with an epoxy-coated steel support frame with LED lighting and wall-mounted controls. An electrostatic pre-filter helps trap additional contaminants and increase filter life. Additional features include advanced carbon filtration technology, multi-unit connection options, ceilingmounted or hanging configurations, energy efficiency and enhanced filtration. The Multiplex Filtration System ensures protection in the work environment over the widest range of applications within the industry. airscience.com/purair-sky-ceiling-unit
OPEN-AIR ORBITAL SHAKERS SET STANDARDS FOR RELIABILITY & TECHNICAL INNOVATION Thermo Fisher Scientific’s new line of open-air orbital shakers offers reliability and user programmability in a compact benchtop design. As the first open-air orbital shakers to feature a touchscreen user interface, the units will better meet the demands of scientists working in academic, cell culture and industrial laboratories, and will reduce contamination with sample mixing, staining, hybridization and washing. The Solaris 2000 and 4000 Orbital Shakers feature a unique design to support operation inside a range of laboratory equipment, including microbiological incubators, environmental chambers and refrigerated environments. These technically advanced units are suitable for use across an extensive array of applications, including microbe and chemical handling, plant cell culture, molecular biology and biochemistry. thermofisher.com/shakers W W W. B I O L A B M AG.C O M
Foxx Life Sciences has launched a new line of borosilicate glassware at competitive prices. Using a unique annealing process, Borosil glassware is stress-free and incredibly resistant to thermal shock. Foxx Life Sciences has exclusivity in North America for all Borosil glassware and the PureGrip Media Glass Bottles, with the patented GL45 VersaCap. The PureGrip Media Bottles represents the first step in Foxx’s collaboration with Borosil. Combining the quality of Borosil glassware with Foxx’s innovative, user-focused designs, PureGrip features large writing surfaces, visible graduations and a cap that changes the ergonomics of holding a vessel. foxxlifesciences.com
NEW SOFTWARE UPDATE FOR FASTER CONCURRENT MULTI-RUN ANALYSIS & IMPROVED PRODUCTIVITY Global laboratory instrumentation manufacturer Fluid Imaging Technologies recently released its biggest software update to date: VisualSpreadsheet Software 5 for the FlowCam, a new automated particle imaging and characterization platform offering improved productivity for users. Matching the rise of automated liquid handlers, this new version enables comparison of data sets from multiple runs simultaneously, thus significantly reducing analysis time. Automated liquid handlers used in laboratory settings capture data from multiple samples over a period of time. The unattended nature of operations makes these robots attractive for labs looking to save time and increase productivity. fluidimaging.com
FRACTION COLLECTOR SETS NEW BENCHMARKS IN PREPARATIVE SCALE FRACTIONATION Shimadzu Scientific Instruments (SSI) recently introduced its new Fraction Collector FRC-40 for high-performance liquid chromatography, which significantly advances preparative scale fractionation. The FRC-40 sets new benchmarks in purification workflow, providing simplified purification procedures and efficient use of bench space. The FRC-40 incorporates improved fraction simulation to ensure pure fractions. Operators simply select the peaks of interest, and the software dynamically configures parameters that will collect them. Users can easily change system parameters, such as the pump flow rate and detector settings, during analysis to maximize efficiency. This feature allows the analyst to make decisions in real time based on the chromatography and reduces the potential of wasting valuable sample. Up to four channel acquisition ensures that operators can use multiple detectors simultaneously. ssi.shimadzu.com BIOLAB BUSINESS FA L L 2 0 1 9
UNIVERSAL FUME HOOD IN VENTED & DUCTLESS MODELS The Universal is perfect for laboratories where space is limited or when multiple hoods are needed. Universal fume hoods are offered in 24”, 30”, 35”, and 47” widths. Hoods are designed for light- to medium-duty fume removal, and features sturdy dual wall construction and a fully vertical sliding sash. Dual walls reduce sound and vibration. Durable fiberglass construction is chemical resistant and fire retardant. The sash is made of 3/16” thick shatterproof Plexiglas and is fully adjustable to allow easy access into the fume chamber. “Easy-Touch” operation allows for precise positioning. Vapour-proof incandescent lighting provides a bright, glare-free work area. hemcocorp.com/ductless
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» The science of food and beverage
To tackle climate change, we need to rethink our food system
way we produce, consume and discard food is no longer sustainable. That much is clear from the newly released UN climate change report, which warns that we must rethink how we produce our food – and quickly – to avoid the most devastating impacts of global food production, including massive deforestation, staggering biodiversity loss and accelerating climate change. While it’s not often recognized, the food industry is an enormous driver of climate change, and our current global food system is pushing our natural world to the breaking point. At the press conference releasing the Special Report on Climate Change and Land, report co-chair Eduardo Calvo Buendía stated that “the food system as a whole – which includes food production and processing, transport, retail consumption, loss and waste – is currently responsible for up to a third of our global greenhouse gas emissions.” In other words, while most of us have been focusing on the energy and transportation sectors in the climate change fight, we cannot ignore the role that our food production has on cutting emissions and curbing climate change. By addressing food waste and emissions from animal agriculture, we can start to tackle this problem. How do we do that? Livestock production is a leading culprit – driving deforestation, degrading our water quality and increasing air pollution. In fact, animal agriculture has such an enormous impact on the environment that if every American reduced their meat consumption by just 10 per cent – about 6 ounces per week – we would save approximately 7.8 trillion gallons of water. That’s more than all the water in Lake Champlain. We’d also save 49 billion pounds of carbon dioxide every year – the equivalent of planting 1 billion carbon-absorbing trees. What’s more, to the injury from unsustainable food production, we add the insult of extraordinary levels of food waste: nearly one-third of all food produced globally ends up in our garbage cans and then landfills. We are throwing away $1 trillion worth of food, or about half of Africa’s GDP, every single year. At our current rates, if food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest carbon emitter after the U.S. and China. To ensure global food security and sustainable food practices in an ever-growing world, we need to reexamine our food systems
and take regional resources – such as land and water availability, as well as local economies and culture – into account. To start, developed countries must encourage food companies to produce more sustainable food, including more plant-based options, and educate consumers and retailers about healthy and sustainable diets. Leaders must create policies that ensure all communities and children have access to affordable fruits and vegetables. And we all can do our part to reduce food waste, whether it’s in our company cafeterias or our own refrigerators. Technology also plays a part. Developed countries should support and incentivize emerging innovative technologies in plant-based foods, as well as carbon-neutral or low-carbon meat production. Developing countries, on the other hand, face high levels of undernutrition, as well as limited access to healthy foods. Many nutrient-dense foods (such as fruits, vegetables and quality meats) are highly perishable, often making prices significantly higher than ultra-processed, nutrient-poor and calorie-dense foods. The high cost of nutrient-dense foods creates a significant barrier to healthy diets. By promoting enhanced production of healthy and nutritious foods, while also improving markets in low-income countries, we can lower prices and increase accessibility of healthy and sustainable diets. Politicians can also tackle systemic inequalities by redirecting agricultural subsidies to promote healthy foods, as well as investing in infrastructure like rural roads, electricity, storage and cooling chain. Change must happen at every level if we want to build a better food system. International participation and resource-sharing can spread regional solutions across countries. And working for change at the ground level – among individuals, communities, local and federal governments and private entities – can help fight hunger and food inequality firsthand. Yes, our food system is broken, but not irrevocably so. The challenges are enormous, but by understanding the problem and potential solutions, we can effect critical changes in the ways we produce, consume and dispose of food. Kathleen Rogers is President of Earth Day Network. Dr. Shenggen Fan is Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and a Commissioner for the EAT – Lancet Commission.
In the next issue of Canadian Food Business and BioLab Business, we’ll tackle the topic of feeding the world: How is science working to solve our supply/demand issues? What are some of the technologies that will help farms become more efficient? How can we conquer some of the biggest challenges facing the future of food? From the labs to the fields, we’ll explore the problems and solutions for our hungry planet.
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By Kathleen Rogers and Dr. Shenggen Fan
New s Bites Putting trust on the balance sheet
Egg Farmers of Canada and McDonald’s are putting consumer trust on the balance sheet. In July, the restaurant chain joined forces with Egg Farmers of Canada to have its egg menu items stamped with the farmers’ seal of approval. Until September, McDonald’s ads include the Egg Quality Assurance (EQA) certification mark for its McMuffin sandwiches. “The EQA program is the culmination of decades of work building world-class standards in the Canadian egg industry,” notes Roger Pelissero, a third-generation egg farmer and Chair of Egg Farmers of Canada. Launched this summer, the EQA is an industrywide initiative that certifies Canadian eggs are produced according to strict food safety and animal welfare standards, which includes on-farm inspections and third-party audits. For Canadians, it’s an instantly recognizable sign that their eggs are made in Canada and are of the highest quality. The egg farmers say that EQA-certified eggs meet their highest standards, so the program ensures that the storage, cleanliness, air quality, feed and recordkeeping of farms are topnotch. “We are committed to industry-leading certification, and working with other leaders is the core of our sourcing strategy,” says Rob Dick, supply chain officer for McDonald’s Canada. CANADIAN FOOD BUSINESS FA L L 2 0 1 9
New network of plant-based food locations
Growing consumer demand for plant-based foods is fuelling a partnership between Compass Group Canada, a leading food service provider, and Copper Branch, the world’s largest vegan restaurant chain. The partnership allows for the opening of up to 50 locations over 10 years to improve the availability of vegan options in hospitals and on campuses across Canada, with five planned openings in the next year. Michael Hachey, chief innovation officer at Compass Group Canada, notes, “This strategic partnership is a direct response to what our customers have told us: They want healthy, plant-based options that are environmentally sustainable and fit into a wellbalanced lifestyle.” The initiative brings more vegan options to Canadians across the country, says Rio Infantino, Copper Branch’s CEO: “Our partnership with Compass Group Canada will allow us to accelerate our growth and expand our national footprint.” Launched in 2014, the company started in Quebec and has expanded to more than 60 franchise restaurants in Canada and, more recently, the U.S.
Three trailblazers share $150,000 innovation award
Simon Fraser University (SFU), BarrelWise Technologies and Technology Brewing Corporation have each received $50,000 from B.C.’s Agritech Innovation Challenge for leading-edge projects that will help battle the varroa mite in bees, improve winemaking processes and develop robots for mushroom harvesting. Researchers at SFU are exploring how a non-toxic chemical compound can target the varroa mite, a pest that can cause significant bee colony loss. Effective varroa control promotes healthy hives and increases the probability of hives surviving the winter. Results from this study could lead to healthier hives in B.C., an increased availability of local pollinators, improved honey production and a reduction in imported bee colonies. BarrelWise Technologies in Vancouver is developing a tool that helps winemakers care for aging wine barrels, making the process more consistent and cost effective. The venture’s equipment allows barrels to remain sealed during the entire aging process, reducing the risk of contamination. It also tracks key chemical data, such as free sulfur dioxide, in each barrel, allowing winemakers to better monitor and control wine production. BarrelWise hopes its tool will help further improve the quality of wine produced in B.C. Technology Brewing Corporation, a Salmon Arm company, is developing a vision-guided robot capable of accurately picking, trimming and placing mushrooms in store-ready boxes. This project could help get B.C. mushrooms to market quicker and help address the mushroom sector’s labour shortage.
CASE STUDY: Sol Cuisine
Strategy: “We recently launched a rebrand of our mission and revamped all packaging, which now features beautiful photography to showcase strong appetite appeal,” Balshine explains. “The packaging truly reflects the quality and texture of the plant-based protein foods within. We even refreshed our logo to reflect the simple and natural ingredients in the recipes, and the artisanal essence of the product line.” Newly launched products include the Sunflower Beet Burger, Portobello Quinoa Burger, Lemon Dill Salm’n Burger and three appetizer/entrée options: Greek Moussaka Meatballs (the first lamb substitute in the market), Zesty Italian Meatballs and Ancient Grains Chik’n Tenders. In total, Sol Cuisine offers eight plant-based burgers and four plantbased protein entrees, plus Veggie Breakfast Sausages. “We have an in-house R&D team,” Balshine says, “which allows for strength and speed of innovation. Our R&D team has gone through several variations of product development to
enhance taste, texture and nutrition of our lineup. One of the biggest concerns that consumers have with veggie burgers, in addition to taste and nutritionals, is texture. We’ve definitely improved both the texture and flavour in all of our products to meet consumer demand. We want to demonstrate that you don’t have to sacrifice taste when you eat plant-based.” Results: Sol Cuisine’s sales growth from 2016 to 2019 was more than 161 per cent. Following the brand refresh, Canadian retail sales grew 42 per cent the following the year. “We are very pleased to see that consumers are embracing our new look,” Balshine adds. “The category is growing by leaps and bounds but, at the end of the day, consumers’ taste buds and their ability to read labels and seek out powerful ingredients that nourish their bodies will be key to a brand’s survival as Canadians strive for healthier choices.” Summary: “Sol Cuisine was born out of my passion for both food and business,” says Balshine. “As a vegetarian, it spoke to my mission to impact health, animal welfare and environmental issues at the same time. The goal has always been to provide choices to consumers looking to reduce the amount of meat they consume, with minimal processing and a clean ingredient panel.”
Sol Cuisine’s sales growth from 2016 to 2019 was more than
A year after the brand refresh, retail sales grew
Before the redesign
** Mintel Meat Alternatives Canada, 2018
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Background: Sol Cuisine was established in 1996 by Dror Balshine, and pioneered plant-based protein foods in Canada by tapping into a unique and mostly untouched market at that time. Ingredients are sourced locally wherever possible, and all products are 100 per cent plant-based, Non-GMO Project Verified, kosher and halal, produced at its 35,000-sq.ft. manufacturing facility in Ontario, which has SQF GFSI global certification in food safety. “The company and its products have evolved as tastes have changed,” Balshine says, “and the recent decision to update the packaging and products was based on the need to elevate the branding to match the quality of the product profile. We now have studies that say more than half of Canadians, at 53 per cent, are choosing to eat plant-based foods.** That’s incredible, and far exceeds demand when we started out. We’ll continue to evolve and map to our mission to make nutrient-dense food that is accessible, available and delivers on taste.”
Why there has never been a better time to embrace the tiny but mighty oat By Natasha Questel, VP of Marketing at Earth’s Own
CANADIAN FOOD BUSINESS FA L L 2 0 1 9
This year saw some big changes to the way Canadians think about food. Canada’s 2019 Food Guide sidelined milk and dairy to focus more on eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and protein, and Canadians stood up and said that they wanted to eat more plants. While this may be news to some, it certainly wasn’t to us. At Earth’s Own, we’ve been shouting proudly about the power of plants since we started back in 1998, and we plan to do so for many more years to come. Considering more than half of Canadians say they want to eat less meat and incorporate more plant-based foods into their diets, and research reveals that the country is greatly concerned about the perils of climate change, we decided what better time than now to re-brand. In April, we reemerged onto the market with a new design, a simplified product line and a rallying call to join the plant-based revolution. We also made the bold move to ensure all of our cartons are made from plants grown in sustainable forests. Our fresh re-brand and new, eye-catching packaging has allowed us to better educate the nation about the positive impact a plant-based lifestyle has on both the planet and people. To further simplify our product offering, we also consolidated our previous sub brands – So Nice, So Fresh and So Good – into one master Earth’s Own brand and adopted the new tagline, “We dig plants,” to spread our message even further. We launched Earth’s Own Oat Original and Unsweetened Vanilla in April 2017 because we want to be a catalyst for change; the tiny but mighty oat allows us to do just that. It possesses numerous health and environmental benefits because oat milk is higher in fibre and protein than almond (and lower in fat than dairy), and it is also an environmental superhero for the planet, especially when you compare it to dairy milk. Better yet, all of our oats are grown by Canadian farmers on Canadian soil, and all they require are land, sunshine and rainwater to grow; the crops are glyphosate free and require about seven times less water to produce than almond or cow’s milk. The fact that the 2019 Food and Beverage trend reports predict that oat will continue to outpace the rest of the plant-based milk options and become king of the non-dairy aisle, is proof that we’re on to something. After an overwhelmingly positive response to our oat milk, in May we expanded our lineup and rolled out two new products: Chocolate Oat, which contains 50 per cent less sugar than regular dairy-based chocolate milk, and Oat Barista, a game-changing beverage created with coffee drinkers in mind and developed in partnership with expert baristas. We also launched our single-serve 250mL offerings of Original, Unsweetened Vanilla and Chocolate Oat, which are nutritious, great for allergen-friendly school lunches and are a perfect handbag size for snacking on the go. Plant-based eating has a massive impact on the earth, and at Earth’s Own we recognize that we have an important role to play for the sake of our customers’ health and that of the planet. This is so much more than greatlooking new products – this is about bold messaging and about putting a stake in the ground for what we believe in.
Blockchain offers critical links to
food security EVERY
year, one in eight Canadians – roughly four million people – gets sick from contaminated food. With shipments coming into the country from every corner of the world, it gets challenging to secure a safe supply of food in an increasingly complex process. For some, blockchain technology promises a failsafe. Blockchain is entering the mainstream among food suppliers looking to avert a contamination crisis, like the one that hit last November, when three major grocery chains – Loblaws, Sobeys and Metro – had to remove lettuce suspected of E. coli contamination. Another retailer, Walmart, took it one step further, asking its leafy green vegetable suppliers to join IBM’s blockchain-based food traceability initiative. The previous year, Walmart worked on a blockchain platform introduced by tech giant IBM, along with a number of other companies, including Dole, Driscoll’s, Golden State Foods, Kroger, McCormick, McLane, Nestlé, Tyson Foods and Unilever, to digitize the food supply process and help offset potential cross-contamination, illness and waste.
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By Jana Manolakos
CANADIAN FOOD BUSINESS FA L L 2 0 1 9
Walmart expects its fresh leafy green suppliers to trace their products back to farms in seconds – not days, as it currently stands. It’s something blockchain technology can deliver, so the company is encouraging its suppliers to join IBM’s Food Trust platform. Just like its name suggests, blockchain links chunks of information together, uploaded to the Cloud by trusted members on a secure network. Every member of the chain can see changes made to blocks of data along any part of the chain. For example, it could be used to record the details of agri-food products moving from the farm all the way to the consumer, with entries made and verified at each step in the production chain. Evan Fraser, Director of the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph and Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security, explains, “In essence, blockchain gives us the tools to track and verify almost anything we can imagine in complicated global food supply chains.” And this means consumers will know exactly what they’re eating, how it is produced and where it has come from, he says. Fraser notes, “Regulators will be able to devise policies that reward food products that have low carbon emissions; public health officials will be able to track pathogens; and the industry will benefit by being able to develop niche products for specific markets.” Unleashing the technology’s potential will make it faster for organizations of all sizes and in all industries to improve business processes. “Unlike any technology before it, blockchain is transforming the way like-minded organizations come together, and enable a new level of trust based on a single view of the truth,” says Marie Wieck, general manager of IBM Blockchain. Both in Canada and the United States, food recall processes have been criticized for slow response times across the supply chain. So in the case of the E. coli–contaminated lettuce, the vegetables’ provenance from seed to table would have been traced easily within seconds through the blockchain – by some estimates as quickly as 2.2 seconds, as compared to days and sometimes weeks. In a letter to its suppliers, Walmart explained, “By quickly tracing leafy greens back to source during an outbreak using recent advances in new and emerging technologies, impacts to human health can be minimized, health officials can conduct rapid and more thorough root cause analysis to inform future prevention efforts, and the implication and associated losses of unaffected products that are inaccurately linked to an outbreak can be avoided.” Walmart has given its suppliers until the end of this September to upload their data to the Food Trust network, promoting it as “a user-friendly, low-cost, blockchain-enabled traceability solution that meets our requirements and creates shared value for the entire leafy green farm to table continuum.” A tool kit and webinars are offered to suppliers to help them get up to speed. Retailers like Walmart aren’t the only ones in the food industry who are jumping on blockchain technology. The University of Guelph has partnered with IBM Canada and industry groups such as SoyCanada and Grain Farmers of Ontario to look at ways of applying the system for expansion of export markets, where authentication is an important selling tool.
“In essence, blockchain gives us the tools to track and verify almost anything we can imagine in complicated global food supply chains. Regulators will be able to devise policies that reward food products that have low carbon emissions; public health officials will be able to track pathogens; and the industry will benefit by being able to develop niche products for specific markets.” – Evan Fraser, Director of the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph and Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security
This first-of-its-kind nitrile glove is infused with metal and was designed specifically for the food processing industry. Now, if someone loses a piece of their glove, processing lines equipped with metal detectors will identify the fragment, making it easy to separate the contaminated product from the rest. Compared to vinyl gloves, nitrile is much more durable; studies have shown a tenfold increase in average failure rates (punctures and tears) when using vinyl. The gloves are available in six sizes, from X-small to 2X-large. www.superiorglove.com
TM3 CLOSED-BOTTOM GROMMET FOR CONDIMENTS Perfect for storing utensils and condiments at selfservice stations in takeout restaurants and buffets, the TM3 grommet can store loose utensils, assorted condiment packets, straws, coffee stirrers, cream and sugar, or anything else you need to keep within reach. The satin stainless steel finish has a timeless look and, most importantly, is easy to clean. Itâ€™s easy to install: Just drill a 6-inch-diameter hole and drop in from the top. The TM3 sits nearly flush with the surface for a seamless, low-profile look. Its 6-inch depth ensures plenty of storage space and room for reaching inside. www.mockett.com
HELPING TO FIND THE PERFECT PROTEIN DETECT SALMONELLA BEFORE IT LEAVES THE PRODUCTION LINE This summer, the Solus One Salmonella immunoassay kit received AOAC Certification for use in testing herbs, spices and flavourings. Designed specifically to meet the demands for speed and accuracy in food testing, results for up to 558 samples can be created from a single machine in an eight-hour shift, producing negative or positive results within 24 hours. Samples as small as 25g and up to 375g can be tested. www.solusscientific.com
Seed-breeding specialist Equinom launched a new Product Profiler app to help food companies select plant protein sources and characteristics from a comprehensive bank of genetically available traits, in order to develop high-value protein products with better functionality. The app also allows protein sources to be tailored to product specifications in a manner that is faster and more accurate than previous technologies allowed. The new application toolbox provides comprehensive insight into the diverse and compelling world of seeds and crops, as well as the vast scope of their genetic makeup and inherent biological potential. Equinomâ€™s userfriendly app draws from a limitless bank of available seeds. The app makes sourcing of high-value, non-GMO grain much more accessible and affordable for food companies and farmers alike. equi-nom.com/smarter-protein/
W W W.C A N A D I A N F O O D B U S I N E S S.C O M
METAL HEAD KEEP KLEEN GLOVES
MOMENTS IN TIME
THE PARIS AGREEMENT SETS GOALS FOR
SAVING THE PLANET BY JANA MANOLAKOS
BIOLAB BUSINESS FA L L 2 0 1 9
In 2015, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was reached – a landmark environmental deal hailed as the first universal accord to limit greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). It replaced the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 and escalated global efforts to find alternatives to fossil fuels in an effort to halt Earth’s rising temperatures. The Kyoto agreement exempted developing countries like China and did not include the United States, two of the world’s leading emitters of GHGs, an absence that weakened its effectiveness and four years later led to Canada becoming the first nation to opt out. Amid a media scrum outside the House of Commons in December 2011, then Minister of the Environment Peter Kent said, “We remain committed to negotiating an international climate change agreement that works. That means getting a pact that involves all major emitters.” Since the first countries signed the Paris Agreement in December 2015, 195 nations have come on board. Replacing the defunct Kyoto Protocol, the Paris deal signals broad international commitment to keeping the rise in global temperatures below two degrees, a level beyond
which scientists think there could be catastrophic consequences. This past May, a group of scientists working on behalf of the UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released a report on the unprecedented decline and potential extinction of species, co-authored in part by University of British Columbia professor Kai Chan. It’s a roadmap for how to achieve the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, beginning with stricter rules for global carbon emissions, reduction in emissions from land use like agriculture and deforestation, and investing in technologies that suck CO2 out of the atmosphere. Over the next 10 years, Canada has pledged to cut its emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels. To help achieve these targets, the federal government introduced a carbon tax. Ontario, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan opposed the government’s carbon pricing scheme and chose individual paths; in provinces that already had other carbon pricing measures, such as Alberta, B.C. and Quebec, nothing changed, since they have models Ottawa deems acceptable. The topic continues to be debated, while global emissions continue to rise.
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