Researchers snag $1-M

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By Jennifer Kwan

A team of Ryerson researchers can now use state-of-the-art microscopes to help improve the quality of food, water and waste treatment.

The Canadian Foundation for Innovation gave a $562,000 grant to Steven Liss and Darrick Heyd from the department of chemistry, biology and chemical engineering, and Derick Rousseau of the food and nutrition school.

It was one of two CFI grants recently handed out to Ryerson professors. Bin Wu, Farrokh Janabi-Sharifi, Ali M. Hussein and Fei Yuan were given $395,979 to help further their creation—small, environmentally friendly motors.

The more than half-a-million-dollar grant shared by Heyd, Liss and Rousseau is unique because it combines different research, but similar methods.

“The thread that brought us together was our common interest in interfaces and surfaces to be used in our respective research,” said Liss, who studies the impact of microorganisms on water and waste treatment. “”Everything [in our research] takes place at surfaces and by using microscopes you can understand it at a basic level.”

Multi-disciplinary grants are more common these days because of the cross-faculty benefits.

“The motivation behind the CFI proposal was too look at an advanced lab to support [this combination] of science research,” Liss said. “It was unique because the focus was on the use of instruments, despite different research focuses.”

The grant represents 40 per cent of the team’s $1.4-million research budget. The Ontario Innovation Trust adds a matching 40 per cent grant, and the remaining 20 per cent comes from the university’s initial investment in the proposal.

The bulk of the CFI grant is being spent on three microscopes—an Atomic Force microscope, a Ramen Spectroscopy, and an update to a Confocal Laser microscope, which was purchased earlier this year.

Much like a needle on a record player, the AFM acts as a sharp probe tip that allows the user to see right down to the atomic scale of the surface.

“It allows you to look at a structure in a native environment without damaging the sample,” said Rousseau, who is researching ways to prolong food’s shelf life.

Heyd, who is researching ways to rid water of diseases, said the Ramen Spectroscopy has phenomenal focus.

The CLM, Heyd said, goes back and forth on a sample, displaying more layers than the average microscope.

CFI spokesperson Pierre Norman said proposals that are approved under the University Research Development Fund undergo a rigid review process, and those who make the cut show promise.

The professors setting up an electric motor lab as a result of their CFI grant have the potential to help lower gas prices.

Wu said their smaller motor systems are also more reliable than conventional ones and cheaper to manufacture.

—With files from Rutul Sharma 

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