Professor awarded NSERC grant for new smart-materials technology

February 11, 2015

Engineering science professor Carlo Menon is one of three Simon Fraser University researchers awarded more than $1.5 million in new money for projects funded by a federal government research-grant agency.

Menon is using a more than $480,000 grant to create a transformative smart adhering interface (SAI) technology. It individually picks and places delicate items such as fruits and vegetables without damaging them or leaving marks. The absence of such a grasping technology forces the Canadian horticultural industry to rely heavily on manual labour, reducing its global competitiveness.

“The SAI consists of smart materials that, controlled by an external stimulus, deform, adhere, hold and gently release delicate horticultural commodities,” says Menon. “This radically novel approach, when coupled to a robotic manipulator, will enable picking and placing delicate items at high speed without damaging them or leaving any mark.” The technology will directly address the needs of the Canadian horticultural industry and benefit the Canadian automation technology sector.

The SAI will also be useful in other automation industries where delicate objects are handled such as bakery products, eggs, industrial plastic, glass, and metallic and wood products.

The new funds are part of a national Strategic Project Grant (SPG) announcement made today by NSERC, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. The three-year grants support scientific partnerships that help strengthen Canada’s economy, society and environment.

Story credit: SFU University Communications. (Read the full story.)