Majid Bahrami holds part of a novel capillary-assisted, low-pressure evaporator that is designed and built for a waste-heat driven adsorption cooling system for use in cars and home air conditioning systems.

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SFU professor makes Canada's Clean50 list

November 11, 2015
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By Karen Lee

Mechatronics systems engineering professor Majid Bahrami, a leading researcher in alternative energy systems, has won a 2016 Canada Clean50 Award in the research and development category.

Bahrami, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Alternative Energy Conversion Systems, was among more than 550 candidates vying for a Clean50 title.

The annual awards recognize Canadian individuals or small teams in 16 categories who have advanced sustainability and clean capitalism in Canada over the past two years.

Bahrami was cited for discovering new products and processes that improve the efficiency of heating/cooling systems for vehicles, electronics and buildings, and for his leadership in training students to design sustainability solutions.

“Through collaboration with industry, Dr. Bahrami has developed innovative ‘clean’ solutions ranging from passive cooling systems for telecommunications (15 per cent carbon-footprint reduction) to adsorption cooling systems, using waste heat, and eliminating harmful refrigerants,” says Gavin Pitchford, chief talent officer of Delta Management Group.

Delta founded Clean50 four years ago to recognize and connect sustainability leaders who can generate collaborative solutions to sustainability problems.

Bahrami is a leading researcher in graphite heat exchangers, fuel cell materials, sustainable cooling, thermal management of batteries, and atmospheric water generation. What’s more, he has trained over 70 students in sustainability research.

Bahrami says ensuring his new discoveries have an industrial application is important.

“Collaboration with industry provides the insight to take my team’s fundamental lab research to the next level,” he says.

“It also exposes students to real-life engineering problems and challenges, which later helps them secure jobs in industry.”

“More importantly, in many cases working with industry opens new horizons in cutting-edge research and innovation that would have been highly improbable to achieve through purely academic engineering research,” he says.

Bahrami’s research team recently worked with three fleet companies—Cool-It, CrossChasm Technologies and Saputo Dairy Products Canada—and the University of Waterloo. They wanted to know whether it was feasible to use waste heat from a vehicle’s engines (a process called adsorption cooling) to power air conditioning and refrigeration units, instead of using a running the engine.

“Bahrami has earned more than $10 million from funding agencies for his alternative energy research,” said Uwe Glässer, dean pro tem in SFU’s Faculty of Applied Sciences. “He is creative and clearly a leader in this important area. As a faculty member, he has provided an opportunity for many undergraduate and graduate students to challenge themselves and push the boundaries of their knowledge in sustainable energy.”

Bahrami encourages his students to develop skills to communicate their research by publishing in academic journals and presenting at research and business conferences, as well as community events.

Over the years his students, comprised of future engineers, chemists and physicists, have joined the 2015 Renewable Cities Global Learning Forum, 2015 Greater Vancouver Clean Technology Expo, 2014 Globe Foundation conference for sustainable development and Earth Day events, among others.

Bahrami, who worked as a thermal engineer and consultant in the heating, ventilation/air conditioning and refrigeration industries before entering academia, would like to see these systems delivering a net-zero impact on the environment.

 He hopes to develop a next-generation air conditioning system compact enough to be widely adopted by the car industry. He also is taking his knowledge of adsorption systems and applying it to atmospheric water generation systems (harvesting potable water from humidity in the air) by integrating solar thermal and industrial waste heat as a source of cooling power.