Electrochemical Power Sources, Microfluidics & Biosensors
Fuel Cell - Energy Technology of the Future
Fuel cells are at the forefront of technologies that hold immense promise for electricity production in an environmentally responsible and efficient manner. The underlying theme of the research currently undertaken is to aid the development of efficient, robust and cheaper fuel cells and associated system components.
Various aspects of fuel cell research and development are being addressed through a combination of experimental work and mathematical modeling studies. Current fuel cell research activities include: the development of novel catalysts to allow usage of alternate and biomass-derived fuels in solid oxide fuel cells, exploitation of nanotechnology to design new electrodes for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells, use of electric fields and nanomaterials to engineer fuel cell component materials with directional properties, development of mathematical models for fuel cell electrodes, design of integrated heat exchanger-catalytic burner for fuel cell systems, evaluation of alternative processes for chemical storage of hydrogen, fabrication of thin electrolytes and metal support, electrochemical characterization of fuel cell behaviour, and fundamental electrochemical kinetic studies of solid oxide cathode reactions.
Complementary research in the area of computational fluid dynamics, electro-catalysis, fuel processing, hydrogen storage, nanomaterials, and laser machining are being carried out as a part of a much larger fuel cell initiative in Kingston. Several of these projects are collaborative in nature and involve researchers from the Royal Military College and the Mechanical and Materials Engineering Department of Queen's University.
Nanoscale Organisation of Materials Using Non-Uniform Electric Fields
The overarching goal of the present research is the development of products and methodologies of technological importance in the areas of advanced materials, related to applications in nanotechnology and biomaterials. Specific interests include spatial manipulation, as well as self- and directed-assembly of colloidal systems into multi-dimensional structures that combine functionality and long-range order. Expertise in colloid science, interfacial engineering, and electric field-mediated colloidal assembly is combined in experimental and theoretical studies toward the understanding, exploitation, and modulation of colloidal interactions that occur between nanoscopic materials (nanoparticles, macromolecules) in solution or at interfaces.
Current efforts are centered toward the development of methodologies and process design tools for the synthesis of advanced materials through non-uniform electric field-directed organization of nanometre-sized particles (d<100 nm) into well-defined one, and multi-dimensional structures, with prescribed length scales and composition. Ongoing research topics include: electrically tunable polymer nanocomposites, 3D nanoparticle organisation for photonic crystals, electric-field mediated synthesis of ordered biological tissue (e.g., cartilage), and manufacturing of rapid and highly-sensitive sensors for the detection of infectious agents (e.g., viruses).
Microchemical and Electrochemical Systems
The vision of this research is concerned with the development of novel and innovative micro-chemical systems for synthesis of products and for conversion and storage of energy. For a reaction engineer, the term micro reactor has traditionally meant a small tubular reactor for testing catalyst performance. Nowadays, the "micro" prefix generally designates micro-chemical systems fabricated with micro fabrication techniques. The reduction in size and integration of multiple functions has the potential to produce structures with capabilities that exceed those of the conventional systems and to add new functionality while potentially making low cost, mass production possible. In general, micro reactors benefit from scaling effects such as high surface-area-to-volume ratios and achieve large heat/mass transfer rates which allow reactions under more uniform temperature conditions to achieve the maximum yield. Also, the superior dynamics of micro reactors allow for alternative reaction routes which cannot be performed with conventional reactors. The production on a large-scale is easily obtained by operating multiple channels in parallel. This straightforward linear approach of "numbering up" (packaging) of single micro reactors simplifies the process scale-up considerably.
Current research projects are concerned with the development of microfluidic batteries and micro-electrolysers. The conducted research has a comprehensive approach and embraces the exploration of the theoretical background and the respective derivation of mathematical models with a subsequent experimental verification.