Innovative solutions in climate and sustainable research

Faculty of Engineering
Sustainable and resilient infrastructure has been one of the Faculty of Engineering’s core areas of research for several years. Many of our researchers work in collaboration with industry and organizations to address the challenges posed by the climate crisis. As engineers, we have the safety of society at heart, and we know climate change is an issue we simply cannot ignore.

“Over the next two weeks, we will be following the evolution of the COP26 conference. As political leaders meet to discuss how best to tackle the changing climate, I want to reaffirm our Faculty’s commitment to reducing our environmental footprint and be faithful stewards of our planet and its people.

‘Make the future’ is our faculty motto, and making sure our planet has a fighting chance is a part of that future.”

- Jacques Beauvais, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering

Dean Jacques Beauvais

“‘Make the future’ is our faculty motto, and making sure our planet has a fighting chance is a part of that future.”

Jacques Beauvais, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering

Many of our researchers are working on technologies and solutions that help us tackle climate change and find more sustainable ways to live. They work with industry, organizations, and different partners to find innovative and equitable solutions to problems that affect us all.

Here are some of our researchers who are making an impact in this area.

Research areas: carbon capture building materials and envelope systems, indoor environmental quality, bioclimatic building design, renewable energy and thermal storage, net-zero carbon buildings and cities

“My research focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings to combat climate change and its impacts. I developed and applied an energy modelling approach to estimate how much we could reduce emissions in urban areas. I also study and create sustainable bio-composite materials to reduce buildings' embodied energy while improving energy performance and indoor environmental quality. I am especially interested in deploying bioclimatic design strategies and methods to develop a sustainable, climate-resilient, and energy-efficiency building environment. As a member of the Centre for Indigenous Community Infrastructure at uOttawa, I am interested in finding culturally appropriate solutions to incorporate these technologies in remote Northern communities in Canada.”

Research areas: environmental hydraulics

“In collaboration with the National Research Council, I am researching the feasibility of extracting hydrokinetic power from Canadian rivers as an alternative source of renewable energy. Generally, only rivers with fast, deep flow are considered for hydrokinetic power. These rivers are the only ones which can accommodate direct installation of a low-head turbine. While they are less efficient and produce less power than high-head turbines, low-head turbines do not require the construction of a dam. This lowers costs and eliminates the negative environmental consequences of river impoundment. It also gives us the possibility to use this solution in isolated areas without direct access to the power grid.”

Research areas: photovoltaics, solar energy

“I do research in solar energy, mainly photovoltaics (PV) – the direct conversion of light into electricity. My focus is on increasing the amount of PV our neighbourhood electricity distribution grids can handle before problems occur. Since electricity has to be generated when we use it, this is a major problem because PV generation does not match how and when we use power. Generating power in a manner that respects environmental boundaries, while emphasizing energy equity and human flourishing, is a challenging task. I and my students do this in partnership with industry, gathering data on PV generation and energy use to improve our forecasting techniques. We also write electrical grid simulation software, and create pragmatic energy management technologies. Our approach facilitates the analysis of future climate impacts and mitigation targets, while realizing adaptation challenges.”

Research areas: fracture of materials

“Our reliance on fossil fuels as an energy source has produced unsustainable levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. This increase has catastrophic environmental consequences. To address this issue, my team and I are working on technologies to transform CO2 from the atmosphere into useful fuels. Major progress was recently achieved. The use of visible light to drive and tune the catalytic process (chemical reaction) improves the transformation of CO2 into fuels. We propose new technology to create catalysts that are cheap and active under visible light illumination. The project involves state-of-the art characterization techniques (material identification), experiments, and simulations. Our goal is to optimize these new catalyst materials to transform CO2 into useful fuel.”

Research areas: diagnosis and prognosis of civil aging infrastructure; management and rehabilitation of structures; design, characterization and performance of sustainable and innovative materials

“I am an expert in the durability of concrete materials. Much of Canada’s critical civil infrastructure is old and deteriorating. With climate change and increased traffic, the rate of deterioration is accelerating. Rehabilitation would require a massive capital investment. My research team and I are developing automated protocols to assess and manage the integrity of critical infrastructure, such as bridges, dams, and roads. I explore advanced techniques to design sustainable materials for future concrete construction projects. These projects would feature longer-lasting structures. Our goal is to reduce public spending and the use the non-renewable resources.”

Research areas: optics and photonics, surface plasmons and their applications

“Recently, there has been considerable global research effort devoted to developing technologies that can transform carbon dioxide (CO2) using visible light. My team has found a way to do that and transform the CO2 into solid carbon forms that emit light. This pathway to reducing CO2 will have implications across many fields. It will interest researchers involved in in the development of solar driven chemical transformations, industrial scale catalytic processes, and light-emitting metasurfaces.”