Canadian Research Colleges Powering Cleantech Growth

SARNIA, September 28, 2021 - Case Study: Batteries & Energy Storage

Colleges have long been among Canada’s strongest resources for research, innovation, and economic development. With the advance of global interest in clean technologies like battery manufacturing and integration, the role of Canada’s research colleges is only becoming more crucial.

Even under the cover of a global pandemic, the climate change crisis has taken centre stage with every deadly heatwave, unprecedented wildfire, and devastating flood. And with climate change driving a five-fold increase in natural disasters over the last 50 years, the crisis has found itself at centre stage with alarming frequency.

In the face of these increasingly urgent climate change challenges, clean technology or cleantech is receiving a great deal of attention from governments and industries worldwide. Canada has taken a particularly active role in advancing clean energy innovation within our borders, with cleantech representing 3.2% of the country’s GDP[1], 317,000 jobs, and a total of $8 billion of investment as of the latest federal budget[2].

With their deep research competencies, strong industry connections, and agile programming, Canada’s network of colleges is a key player in the push towards clean technologies. Many Canadian colleges have rapidly escalated their applied research efforts in response to the looming threat of climate change with dedicated investment, infrastructure, and collaboration with industry partners. In fact, many of the top research colleges in Canada, as ranked by RESEARCH Infosource Inc., have research areas focusing on clean technologies, with a number having established research institutes largely dedicated to cleantech. This includes Lambton College, with its Lambton Energy Research Centre and Centre for Industrial Material Development.

With its significant research footprint, Lambton College benefits from targeted government investment and supportive policies and has been able to undertake key projects in battery manufacturing and integration research.

Battery technology a key enabler of a low-carbon future

Battery technology and energy storage has emerged as a critical component of the transition to a low-carbon society. This is because renewable energy sources, like solar and wind power, are variable in nature and thus do not produce steady energy. By storing energy from these sources for future use, battery technology can create a reliable store of electrical energy, one capable of filling the gaps in a grid becoming increasingly reliant on solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources and less dependent on fossil fuels. 

Optimizing battery technology by making batteries more long-lasting and efficient has the potential to reshape the fabric of the industries that account for the majority of carbon emissions—namely the transport sector[3]—by enabling them to rely on more renewable and clean energy sources. Battery technology has been singled out by numerous jurisdictions as being among the most important research areas for the march towards a carbon-neutral future.

Collaborating with industry in battery research and commercialization

One of the main reasons battery manufacturing and integration research is underpinned in large part by the work of Canadian research colleges is because collaboration with industry is at the [1] of this effort. Canadian colleges regularly partner with corporations large and small to develop innovative technology and deploy it into local, national, and international markets for environmental and economic benefit. 

This holds true at Lambton College, –where multiple battery-related projects are currently underway at its dedicated Energy and Material Research Centres with industry partners. These projects are divided into two main categories: battery development and manufacturing, and battery integration into applications.

Led by Canada’s Industrial Research Chair Dr. Shahram Karimi, Lambton College researchers are currently working with Toronto-based Volta Energy Inc. to develop a new, aluminum-ion based battery, and with Maglin Site Furniture to incorporate a modular, hybrid solar-powered battery into the design of outdoor furniture, such as a sun-shade system.

Within the Lambton Energy Research Centre (LERC), researchers have partnered with electrochemical technology corporation e-Zinc to investigate the manufacturing of e-Zinc’s air cathode, including cost projections and market demand. Lambton researchers are also working with Synthion Energy, a high-tech energy storage company, to support the production of their synthion battery prototype using metal nano-engineered materials, intended to outperform lithium-ion. In local partnership news, Lambton College has teamed up with Sarnia-based Aluma Power to design and implement a management system for their battery unit.

As global players continue to emphasize cleantech in the fight against climate change, it’s up to governments and policymakers to prioritize the funding, development, and deployment of technologies like battery integration and manufacturing. Building Canada’s domestic cleantech market will not only cement the country’s role in the global fight against climate change but pave the way for it to emerge as an international technology leader—a goal towards which it’s already made great strides, thanks in part to the work of the country’s research colleges.

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