Tackling Sustainability and Global Issues through International Partnerships

Faculty of Engineering
The Tecnológico de Monterrey University in Mexico
The Tecnológico de Monterrey University in Mexico
The Faculty of Engineering at the University of Ottawa has partnered with Mexico’s Tecnológico de Monterrey to collaborate on research projects to help resolve global issues such as sustainability and climate change.

The UN Climate Change Conference COP26 has highlighted the importance of international collaboration in the effort to tackle climate change. Through the creation of a joint seed grant program, uOttawa’s Faculty of Engineering has been working with a team of researchers and students at Tecnológico de Monterrey, one of Mexico’s top universities on various research project that are of global importance.

A total of five projects were chosen to receive this funding, totalling $100,000. Of the five, two focus directly on climate change and sustainability.

Using Autonomous Vehicles to Monitor Pollution

This project aims to address environmental pollution by using autonomous vehicles to collect and analyze data from the air, water, and land. Prof. Pierre Payeur, led researcher on the uOttawa side and founding director of the Sensing and Machine Vision for Automation and Robotic Intelligence (SMART) Research Group, will work with Dr. Luis E. Garza-Castañón and Dr. José Israel Martínez-López, professors and researchers of the School of Engineering at the Tecnológico de Monterrey, and with uOttawa civil engineering Professor Majid Mohammadian, to develop innovative sensors that will then be embedded onto autonomous air, land, and water vehicles. These vehicles will be deployed in the cities of Monterrey and Ottawa to collect and analyse environmental pollution data.

The researchers will also work with Aixware Technologies, an R&D company focused on robotics, AI and embedded systems based in Monterrey, to receive their expertise in the development of the technologies used in the research.

The project will contribute to a better understanding of the way pollution invades the environment. Up until now, environmental pollution has been mostly monitored through sensors installed at fixed locations and through satellite images. Researchers all over the world have recently started using drones to monitor pollution levels in the air, but the collaborative research led by Dr. Payeur and Dr. Garza-Castañón will be the first to take a rounded approach in monitoring pollution from the air, water, and land collectively.

Overall, improving the collection and the analysis of data related to environmental pollution will serve in many ways in the global fight against climate change. The sensors installed on autonomous vehicles will be able to detect areas where pollution reaches unusually high levels and will automatically increase the amount of data being collected in these specific regions. Being able to understand more precisely where pollution comes from, where it goes, and how it impacts the ecosystem will allow us to develop new policies and methodologies to better protect the environment.

Preparing our Concrete Infrastructure to the Impacts of Climate Change

This next project, led collaboratively by uOttawa professor Dr. Beatriz Martín‐Pérez and Tecnológico de Monterrey professor Dr. Andrés Antonio Torres-Acosta will focus on the impacts of climate change on our concrete infrastructure, an area of research that is becoming more popular due to increasing climate change concerns.

 Worldwide, our infrastructure is largely built out of concrete. In most buildings and structures, concrete is reinforced with steel to further increase the material’s strength. However, corrosion of the steel used in reinforced concrete (RC) is the most severe deterioration mechanism affecting infrastructure.

Rising greenhouse emissions and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere can contribute to accelerate the corrosion of RC. Unfortunately, the current codes of practice in the industry do not take climate change factors in consideration, and it is highly likely that RC infrastructure will deteriorate faster than anticipated unless a new model is developed to predict the impact of climate change in the durability of the material – one of the goals of this collaborative research project.

Dr. Martín‐Pérez and Dr. Torres‐Acosta will also be studying whether “eco-friendly” cement, in which minerals such as limestone are added to the cement to reduce carbon emissions during the manufacturing process, is as durable as regular cement. Eco-friendly cement might appear to be   a good option for the environment, but if the material is more susceptible to corrosion than is regular cement, the more frequent repairs needed could outweigh the benefits of using a cement that is produced more ecologically.

The goal is for the research team to develop models that compare the durability of regular and eco-friendly cement against the impacts of climate change, which will better prepare our infrastructure to the climate challenges laying ahead.

About the Faculty of Engineering

The uOttawa Faculty of Engineering stands by its belief that through teachingresearch, and active engagement of our partners, we will continue to innovate and implement sustainable solutions.

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