Research funding keeps UAlberta on leading edge

(Edmonton) The University of Alberta is the beneficiary of more than $14 million in funding from the federal government for advanced research infrastructure to help continue to compete in today’s global knowledge economy.

Through the Canada Foundation for Innovation Leading Edge Fund, this government investment is earmarked to help further the university’s research excellence and infrastructure in diverse areas.

“The results of this research will not only benefit the University of Alberta, but also Canadians and the global community,” said Lorne Babiuk, U of A vice-president of research. “On behalf of the university, I thank CFI for their generous support and congratulate the researchers who have attracted this important funding. Investment in research such as this is essential to furthering Canada’s research landscape and our global competitiveness.”

Four U of A proposals were successful:

  • the Centre for Neural Interfaces and Rehabilitation Neuroscience ($3,076,491)
  • SIFER, the Stable Isotope Facility for Ecosystem Research ($1,478,111)
  • the U of A Centre for Functional, Structural, and Metabolic In Vivo Imaging of Disease ($5,500,000)
  • EMC2, or Energy Materials Characterization and Control ($3,986,163)

The EMC2 proposal was submitted by chemical and materials engineering professor Kenneth Cadien on behalf of 10 fellow researchers representing an interdisciplinary network of labs across the campus.

Cadien, a Canada Research Chair in Nanofabrication and fellow of the National Institute for Nanotechnology, says the end result of the nearly $4 million in funding from CFI will be improved control and characterization of matter at the nanoscopic scale, enabling researchers to build materials and devices that can generate, store and use energy much more efficiently, thus offering opportunities to greatly mitigate the world’s pressing energy challenges.

Cadien points out that previous CFI awards at the U of A created three complementary and highly successful facilities for the manipulation and understanding of nano-scale materials: nanoFAB, the university’s nanofabrication research facility; the Alberta Centre for Surface Engineering and Science (ACSES) and the Integrated Nanosystems Research Facility.

Cadien says the new funding will build on that success by enhancing this infrastructure within a single co-ordinated facility, the EMC2.

Of the nearly 20 additions or upgrades outlined in the proposal, Cadien says the most notable include a helium-ion microscope, which will add leading-edge lithography to the nanoFAB facility, and a state-of-the-art transmission electron microscope for ACSES.

“The guiding principle through this whole thing was no equipment for any individual,” said Cadien, noting that a facility like nanoFAB has an astonishing 700 users, many of whom are scientists from industry. “This equipment is for our user facilities, which I believe has the biggest impact for the university.”

Cadien says the upgraded and new equipment is great for attracting and attaining quality researchers—and has the added benefit of offering university students the opportunity to train on leading-edge equipment.

“A lot of these universities are getting these tools, so where are the people who know how to use them if students are never allowed to touch equipment?” he said. “User facilities will allow us to train students for the next-generation technologies.”