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April 15, 2016

Professors Louise Dawe and Ken Maly are working in a fast growing and innovative area of experimental chemistry to understand how to design and control assemblies of molecules to prepare materials that may reduce Canada's dependency on fossil fuels, by providing alternative energy production and storage methods. They are working to do this cutting-edge work in the most environmentally friendly way possible.

Their new materials open up applied opportunities in areas such as fuel cell technology and greenhouse gas sequestration. Traditionally, to create these materials, chemical reactions needed to be carried out at high temperatures for a long time, and the use of large volumes of solvent were required. Dawe is looking to change this process to produce these materials in a more environmentally friendly way.

“This support will allow our research groups to make materials in a more environmentally friendly way,” said Dawe, assistant professor in the Chemistry and Biochemistry department. “Not only are we making strides in discovering the building blocks of new materials, we are working in a way that minimizes harm to the environment.”

Dawe is experienced in designing small molecules that come together to make new materials. She has coauthored 107 peer-reviewed papers in scientific publications since 2004 and has deposited 300 new small molecule structures into the Cambridge Structural Database, which are referenced by scientists worldwide. Some of her existing molecules have been explored for their potential to increase computing memory, or to act as alternative vessels for drug delivery.

Recognizing the importance of this approach, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) awarded Dr. Dawe $16,000 for her project titled, "Green Methods for the Preparation of New Materials.” With this new funding, Dawe and Maly will be able to produce new materials using equipment that is faster, takes less energy and use fewer chemicals. The CFI’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund helps institutions attract and retain the very best of today’s and tomorrow’s researchers through funding infrastructure to support cutting-edge research. The CFI gives researchers the tools they need to think big and innovate.

This research will allow Dawe and Maly to develop not only more rapid approaches to new materials, but also using methods that are greener than conventional methods. This research will have broad ranging implications, including vessels for the transport of cleaner burning fuels, and increased computing capabilities over current technology.

Their findings will also impact the energy sector, where new materials may reduce Canada's dependency on fossil fuels by providing alternative energy production and storage methods.

“We want to ensure we are training students in techniques that use lower amounts of energy and produce less chemical waste,” adds Maly, associate professor in the Chemistry and Biochemistry department. “These skills are required of chemists working in industry today.”

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