$4.3M for soft materials research centre

December 18, 2013

SFU is using more than $4.3 million in federal funding announced Dec. 18 by Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, to establish a new Centre for Soft Materials within its Burnaby campus 4D LABS facility.

The Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation (AFCC) is contributing an additional $1.9 million to the project and SFU is contributing $2.4 million.

The centre will host a suite of sophisticated new equipment including two electron microscopes, allowing local firms and innovators from a variety of sectors to test advanced soft materials under real-world conditions, greatly reducing the time to market for new products.

It will also train the next generation of highly qualified personnel in the field of soft materials, which includes a broad range of substances including liquids, polymers, gels, foams, emulsions, colloids and biological materials.

Students will get hands-on training in advanced microscopy and complementary tooling that was previously unavailable in Canada.

"We are proud to work with Simon Fraser University and our industry partners on this project, which will help our companies accelerate commercial opportunities,” says Rempel.

The centre “sets an example of how co-operation among government, industry and academia can promote Canada, and British Columbia in particular, as the premier location for fuel-cell stack producers and their many suppliers,” says AFCC chief financial officer Tim Bovich.

The centre’s technologies will also be accessible to many other sectors, including lighting, information technology, medicine, measurement and controls, electronics, security and clean energy.

“Through this investment from the Government of Canada and SFU’s ongoing partnership with the Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation, 4D LABS is now able to expand its capabilities,” says SFU chemistry associate professor, Byron Gates, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Surface Chemistry.

“We can enable a more accurate nano-scale visualization and chemical analysis of a diverse range of soft materials including biological tissues, composites and membranes whose function depends on the distribution of water, polymers and other matrices within the material,” says Gates.

“Academic, industrial and government researchers across Western Canada will benefit from the addition of this centre, which will facilitate further product innovation and economic development in the region.”

SFU Vice-President, Research Mario Pinto adds: “Thanks to its support, the Government of Canada is helping to establish SFU as a leader in material sciences and engineering research, in turn raising Canada’s global reputation in this sector.

“There is perhaps no other area of research that is as collaborative and vast in scope and with such potential to drive the advancement of products and industries that benefit our everyday lives.”


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