Story by Tyler Irving, U of T Engineering News
Two U of T Engineering professors have been awarded new Canada Research Chairs.
Professor Gisele Azimi (ChemE, MSE) now holds the Canada Research Chair in Urban Mining Innovation, while Professor Arthur Chan (ChemE) is the new Canada Research Chair in Atmospheric Chemistry and Health.
Azimi’s research focuses on innovative ways to recover valuable elements from unconventional sources. These include rare earth elements, such as neodymium and dysprosium, which are needed for the types of batteries and magnets found in technologically advanced products such as smartphones, electric vehicles and wind turbines.
Using unconventional techniques such as supercritical fluid extraction, Azimi and her team are developing new ways to recover these valuable elements from materials that would otherwise be discarded as waste — old electronic devices, batteries left over from electric vehicles, and even byproducts of the aluminum industry.
By converting waste into valuable products and developing extraction methods that are use less energy or produce fewer byproducts, Azimi is at the leading edge of a more sustainable resources sector. Earlier this year, she earned the Faculty’s McCharles Prize for Early Career Research Distinction.
Arthur Chan and his team study air quality, particularly the impact of particulate matter such as organic hydrocarbons or heavy metals on human health. These compounds can be carcinogenic or have other toxic effects. The goal is to measure these pollutants in urban air and trace their sources in order to prevent future pollution.
Recently, the team collected dust from homes in Fort McMurray, Alta., analyzing it for evidence of harmful toxic substances left in the aftermath of the devastating 2016 wildfire. Their study revealed normal levels of contaminants that are comparable to homes across Canada, and so far, no evidence of long-term health risks from fire-ash exposure in residents’ homes.
“These new Canada Research Chairs will accelerate the work of top researchers in critical areas and help translate their innovations into new technologies, processes, and business models,” said Ramin Farnood, Vice-Dean, Research at U of T Engineering. “We are very proud of the work that Professors Azimi and Chan are doing to build a more sustainable world.”