This past year was a successful time for our 2021 grant recipients, with many milestones achieved. With the end of the year, however, comes an exciting time at the Foundation to announce this year’s newly awarded grant recipients. As has been the case for the past several years, a high number of applications were received from a number of different universities across the country. With the high amount of applications, our Foundation’s grant advisors were given the daunting task of selecting this year’s winners from a large pool of many well deserving candidates.
After a very challenging adjudication process, the Foundation is excited to announce that for the fourth year in a row, it will be awarding a total of three TLCERF grants. This year’s worthy awardees are:
• Caroline Bergeron (Concordia University)
• Mia Stankovic (University of British Columbia)
• Marie-Pier Trépanier (Université Laval)
Everyone at the Tyler Lewis Clean Energy Research Foundation is extremely proud to have these three join the list of past Foundation awardees, as they are not only strong researchers investigating promising clean energy projects, but they also embody the Foundation’s mission beyond their research.
Learn more about this year’s award recipients and their research below.
Caroline Bergeron – Development of Solar-Powered Biohybrid Systems for the Production of Ammonia Concordia University (PhD, Chemistry)
Caroline received her Bachelor of Science degree from Concordia University with a specialization in Biochemistry in 2020. After fast-tracking from an MSc, Caroline is now a doctoral student in Chemistry at Concordia University under the supervision of Dr. Marek Majewski. Caroline has been heavily involved in student leadership throughout her academic career; as a graduate student she has been VP Social of the Concordia Chemistry and Biochemistry Graduate Student Association (CBGSA) since 2021 and has been head organizer for the Chemistry and Biochemistry Graduate Research Conference (CBGRC) for the past two years which in 2022 had involvement from nearly 400 participants. Outside of her research and leadership endeavors you can find Caroline rock climbing, hiking, painting, or perfecting her next agility course with her dog Ziggie. Caroline’s current PhD work involves stimulating ammonia production from novel biohybrid systems as a greener alternative to industry synthesis methods. The following is a summary of Caroline’s research in her own words:
As society pushes to move away from non-renewable carbon-based energy sources we must address how we can continue synthesizing key industrial chemicals sustainably. This means we must design processes that are better for our environment than current methods. Ammonia represents a significant industrial product due to its role in fertilizer and explosive manufacturing (amongst others), and also holds potential for long-term energy storage due to its high energy density. Currently, ammonia is primarily synthesized through the Haber-Bosch process, known to be one of the largest sources of energy consumption (ca. 1% of global production) and carbon dioxide emissions (ca. 1.4% global emissions) in industrial synthesis. In nature, many organisms have nitrogen-fixing pathways that allow them to reduce nitrogen to ammonia as a natural product. Bioreactors offer a method of harnessing the natural production of such organisms, relying on milder reaction conditions, and have the potential of being self-sustaining. The energy requirement for this process in microorganisms is high and the yield is much lower than traditional industrial methods so in the present form, massive scale-up is required. My goal is to amplify production of ammonia in bioreactors by using the sun as a primary energy source and by combining nanomaterials that are able to capture solar energy with bacteria that are able to produce ammonia via nitrogen fixation. These biohybrid systems effectively combine an abiotic material with a biological material. Specifically, photosensitizing nanomaterials are introduced to interact with the bacterial cell membrane so that when light is present the energy taken up by the nanomaterial is transferred across the cell membrane and into target metabolic pathways augmenting biosynthesis. In my work, a library of such nanomaterials are combined with Rhodopseudomonas palustris to form biohybrids, where I investigate the interactions at the interface and probe the product output of these systems.
The TLCERF grant will allow me to recruit a collaborator for the next phase of my project–expanding the product repertoire of the biohybrid systems beyond ammonia by providing funding to learn necessary genetic modification techniques. This grant will also help me share my work with the broader community by supporting travel to scientific meetings and help me pursue outreach activities in local schools alongside my research.
Mia Stankovic – Decarbonization of Chemical Manufacturing Using a Membrane Reactor University of British Columbia (PhD, Chemistry)
Mia graduated from Queen’s University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. During this time, she competed on the varsity water polo team and volunteered with women in science and engineering. She realized her passion for solving interdisciplinary problems during her honors thesis with Dr. Anna Harrision, where she studied geochemical methods for heavy metal and CO2 sequestration in carbonate minerals. Mia then accepted a master’s position in the Berlinguette group at UBC , which quickly turned into a PhD. Mia currently leads the Berlinguette group’s “Thor” project, where she works with an interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers in the development of clean hydrogen technology. Mia describes this project below:
Our aim is to create a hydrogen economy without using hydrogen gas. Our reactor, which we have nicknamed “Thor” was designed to create and use atomic hydrogen in one concerted system. This unique reactor design eliminates the need to transport and store large quantities of explosive hydrogen gas, which is sourced from fossil fuels.
Thor sources hydrogen from water, using an electrochemical method called “water oxidation”. In water oxidation, a potential is applied between two electrodes (an anode and a cathode) in a water-based solution. This potential splits the water molecules into oxygen at the anode and hydrogen at the cathode. Thor uses a hydrogen-permeable cathode, which enables the formed hydrogen to permeate into a separate reactor compartment. Once in the second compartment, the atomic hydrogen is poised to react with different feedstocks (Fig. 1). This unique two-compartment architecture splits the Thor reactor into a hydrogen production compartment, and a hydrogen utilization compartment. We are able to run hydrogenation reactions at any concentration, with or without solvent, as a result of this separation.
My goal on this project is to develop chemical hydrogenation pathways that can be integrated into the real world. I am currently exploring the production of fuels and commodity chemicals from biomass-derived compounds as an alternative to petrochemicals. This work involves catalyst design, reactor engineering, and fundamental studies of catalytic pathways. This research excites me because the products I am making can be readily integrated into existing infrastructure, and offers an immediate route to decarbonizing our economy.
The Tyler Lewis Clean Energy Research Fellowship helps support me in my graduate studies. This award allows me to focus on my research without taking on a part time job. I hope to use this grant to better connect with my scientific community through conferences, outreach, and collaborative projects.
Marie-Pier Trépanier – Simulating the Interior Microclimate and Artificial Lighting of Greenhouses in Order to Improve Energy Efficiency and Determine the Best Type of Renewable Energy for Greenhouses Université Laval (M.Eng., Mechanical Engineering)
Marie-Pier received her Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Université Laval in 2022. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at the Université Laval’s energy laboratory, under the supervision of Louis Gosselin, P. eng., Ph.D. Marie-Pier is the recipient of the prestigious Alexander Graham Bell Graduate Scholarship, an award given by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada. Marie-Pier is a passionate, involved young woman with a leadership spirit and many convictions. She is very involved in her community, especially in the promotion of engineering among young girls. She co-founded and is co-chair of the Génie uELLES committee whose goal is to promote, motivate and inform women in engineering. Whenever the opportunity arises, you can find Marie-Pier on the various bodies of water in Quebec practicing a variety of sports: sailing, canoeing, paddleboarding, kayaking! For the past fourteen years, she has also practiced artistic swimming in the provincial, Canadian and university networks. In the winter, she exchanges her aquatic activities for cross-country skiing and ski touring. At Université Laval, Marie-Pier is presently conducting research in the field of energy efficiency, particularly in simulating greenhouses to improve their energy efficiency, increase yields and determine the best type of renewable energy for the context. An overview of Marie-Pier’s research is given below in her own words:
In 2020, the Quebec government has made a commitment to invest heavily in food self-sufficiency. Its strategy for greenhouse growth aims to double the volume of greenhouse crops by 2025. To reduce the environmental footprint of these energy-intensive buildings, it is necessary to increase their energy efficiency and use the most optimal renewable energy sources. To have an efficient clean energy management in a greenhouse, it is essential to understand the different phenomenon involved. Several parameters must be included in greenhouse balances (thermal, CO2, steam, etc.), such as artificial lighting, heat transfer, ventilation, radiation, photosynthesis, and evaporation.
My master’s project is directly related to the field of energy, environment and sustainable development. Indeed, the project consists in simulating the interior microclimate and artificial lighting of greenhouses in order to improve energy efficiency and determine the best type of renewable energy to use. The objective is to reduce the environmental footprint of the greenhouses and ensure the proper growth of plants. The major challenge of greenhouses is to reduce their high energy consumption, and this is even more important for buildings located at high latitudes. The main objective of the project is to develop a realistic modelling of the microclimates inside greenhouses according to the design of the greenhouse and its different systems (heating, lighting, ventilation, etc.), the weather, the operating conditions, and the interaction with the plants. The microclimate we wish to simulate corresponds to the set of physical variables of interest (air velocity, temperature, CO2 and humidity concentration, luminosity, etc.) in 3D and as a function of time in the greenhouse. The goal of the model will be to determine the impact of operating conditions such as lighting on energy consumption and determine the best energy source for the application, keeping in mind the principles of sustainable development and clean energy.
In order to properly calibrate the model, thermal measurements will be taken in the greenhouse by the project’s partner growers. Data from several lighting scenarios will be used to evaluate the impact on plant growth. With a better model of the interaction of plants with their environment, the benefits of using intra-canopy lighting can be quantified. Several case studies will be analyzed. The thermal effect of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps will be analyzed through a greenhouse test campaign and simulation.
I am very grateful for the TLCERF grant because it will also allow me to dedicate more time to my studies and focus all my attention on my project. This grant will also permit me to do an internship abroad to gain new perspectives on the field and to perfect my knowledge of renewable energy.