A triple play for applied research
Three significant, multi-year research grants have been awarded to the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), further enhancing its role as an applied-research leader and building on its relationships with industry and post-secondary partners.
The grants will enable SAIT researchers to expand their work in new technologies for clean-energy production and cattle ranching.
Two of the grants were awarded as joint projects with SAIT's partners, including the University of Calgary and Thompson Rivers University (TRU), with SAIT providing access to its 45,000 square feet of specialized research facilities; 45 full-time researchers; and prototype design, testing and fabrication capabilities.
SAIT shares $75-million grant with the U of C
SAIT, along with Innovate Calgary, will share in a seven-year, $75-million grant awarded to the University of Calgary to research and test ways to dramatically reduce the environmental impact of the extraction and use of unconventional hydrocarbon resources. The research will seek to identify innovative, low-carbon fossil fuels-based energy systems.
With its portion of the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) grant, SAIT will hire three new technical specialists, fund student research, and retrofit its laboratories for hydrocarbon research. SAIT's expertise in building prototypes and demonstration-scale technologies for the energy sector was a key part of the CFREF grant proposal.
"SAIT is thankful to the federal government for its support and commitment to innovative energy solutions," says Dr. David Ross, SAIT President and CEO. "We are proud to be one of Canada's top-ranked colleges in applied research and pleased to work with our partners as we continue championing solution-focused research - making ideas a reality from prototyping and fabrication through to testing and analysis."
Drone research for "precision" cattle ranching receives grant
In partnership with TRU, SAIT is expanding on its successful ultra-high-frequency radio frequency identification (UHF RFID) animal-tracking research with a College-University Idea to Innovation Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
Glen Kathler, SAIT's RFID research lead, says the $665,000, three-year project will bring together two sophisticated skillsets in agricultural research.
"Our collaboration with TRU combines their thermal-imaging expertise with our RFID animal-tracking research and prototyping, and helps to further enhance the high standards of the livestock industry in maintaining food-chain safety," says Kathler.
SAIT's prototype UHF-RFID tag system allows cattle ranchers and feed lots to maintain timely, accurate data on a herd. Whole groups of cattle can be read as they pass through an archway in a matter of minutes, a significant improvement on previous low-frequency technologies that scanned cows one at a time through a squeeze chute.
This new research with TRU takes animal data collection to new heights.. Kathler will develop RFID antennae to be mounted on drones that will be used to locate missing cattle, read and possibly even herd them. The antennae would read RFID cattle tags, gather data specific to individual cows, and enable ranchers to access a database of information remotely. Ultimately, this supports transparency in herd management within the livestock industry.
Preliminary work is already underway, with a goal of having a commercialization-ready prototype by the summer of 2018.
SAIT researcher awarded prestigious NSERC Research Chair
Vita Martez, an environmental technologies researcher in SAIT's Applied Research and Innovation Services (ARIS) department, has been awarded the prestigious Industrial Research Chair for Colleges in Oil Sands In Situ Steam Generation by NSERC.
The award, valued at $1.75 million over five years, goes exclusively to SAIT to research ways to make the steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) process used in oil sands extraction more environmentally responsible.
Martez's technology testing and development research will target three areas:
- recycling more water for reuse in in situ oil sands production to reduce water use
- improving steam quality with each recycle
- de-carbonizing the process and reducing emissions
Currently, natural gas is used to boil water to make the steam, which produces greenhouse gases. De-carbonization will reduce emissions while increasing energy and water efficiency. Currently, industry recycles 90% of this water. Martez says her applied research could improve this percentage significantly.
In addition, the research will have significant social and economic benefits for Canada and other energy-producing countries.
"It will reduce the environmental footprint of oil sands production and attract new investment in technologies for cleaner energy production," says Martez.