SFU receives award to develop next generation of global leaders in clean technology
By Suraaj Aulakh
Simon Fraser University has just been selected to lead a program that will train researchers from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to become global leaders in clean technology.
The Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship Advanced Scholars (QES-AS) program funds comprehensive research and leadership training for doctoral, post-doctoral and early career researchers from LMICs through partnerships between universities in Canada and LMICs. The goal is to cultivate collaborations that can drive innovative research on a local and international level, while developing scholars to become leaders in their field.
Majid Bahrami, a professor in SFU’s School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering, and Canada Research Chair in Alternative Energy Conversion Systems, will mentor the young scholars at SFU.
Young researchers to help solve real-world challenges
“This funding from the highly competitive QES-AS program provides the opportunity for young researchers to advance in global projects that aim to solve real-world challenges,” says Joy Johnson, SFU’s vice-president, research and international.
Continuing a 30-year tradition of working in developing countries, “this opportunity allows SFU to further align with our vision of being Canada's leading engaged university defined by innovative research," she says.
Addressing clean technologies for food and water security
With support from the prestigious QES-AS program, Bahrami and collaborator Zafar Adeel, executive director at SFU’s Pacific Water Research Center, will partner with five universities in Bangladesh, India, Iran and Pakistan to develop and test innovative clean technologies that target the global food and water crisis.
To address the global water shortage, Bahrami is already building the Hybrid Atmospheric Water Generator (HAWGen) to harvest potable water from the air, which could ensure people living in drought, desert or polluted regions have access to clean drinking water. Adeel will focus on water security and policy to develop a network of pilot test sites and identify best practices within the selected LMICs.
For food security, Bahrami has an innovative, yet simple, solution: sustainable greenhouses.
Current greenhouses can optimize temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide levels to grow crops anywhere, during any season. But they are expensive to operate and depend on non-renewable energy sources such as fossil fuels and natural gas.
“Energy accounts for about 65 to 85 per cent of the total cost of running these greenhouses,” says Bahrami. “If we use renewable technology such as waste-heat driven HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) systems, we can significantly reduce the energy cost and potentially bring it down to zero.”
Developing new solar energy and waste-heat technologies
Thanks to the QES-AS program funding, Bahrami and his international team will develop technologies that use solar energy, and waste-heat from industrial and power plants, to control temperature and humidity in a sustainable greenhouse. A waste-heat/solar-thermal energy driven model of the HAWGen will serve as a sustainable water source.
Working with LMICs through the QES-AS program is personally important for Bahrami, who was born in Iran. His research is driven by a passion to create solutions that have a lasting positive impact on people in underdeveloped areas.
“I hope I can do my part in training the technology leaders of tomorrow, so they can go back to their countries and implement clean technology solutions in their local communities.”
The Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Advanced Scholars Program is managed through a unique partnership between Universities Canada, the Rideau Hall Foundation, Community Foundations of Canada and Canadian universities. It is made possible with financial support from the International Development Research Centre and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.