75 years of chemistry at NRC: 1970 to 1991 wrestling with change.
The 1970s and 1980s saw profound changes in the practice of chemistry, at NRC and in Canada. Throughout successive waves of change, the NRC has always been able to bend and adapt without tearing loose from its original roots; namely.
- dedication to science, defined as the pursuit of knowledge;
- innovation and development of scientists and technologists; and
- collaboration that serves the nation's industrial and commercial needs.
Changes in Chemistry
The chemistry division led the transition from wet chemistry to instrumentation. In 1946, R. Norman Jones, FCIC, joined the division as a post doctoral fellow (PDF), experienced in ultraviolet and infrared spectroscopy techniques. Trained at Manchester University, Jones then had a fellowship at Harvard University, both places being hotbeds of spectral research. The combination of infrared spectroscopy and computers revolutionized the identification of compounds during the 1960s and early 1970s. As chairman of the Committee on Data for Science and Technology of the International Council of Scientific Unions (CODATA), Jones presided over the computer cataloguing of infrared spectra and X-ray diffraction characteristics of compounds; the database eventually included more than 250,000 infrared spectra, essential to identification today.
By the late 1980s, spectroscopy and other new techniques had changed chemistry to the extent that an NRC publication felt obliged to describe it as follows,
"Chemistry is concerned with the interactions of atoms and molecules with each other, with electrons, and with electromagnetic radiation including light. Since the properties of all substances, whether solids, liquids or gases, depend ultimately on these interactions, chemistry is materials science in the broadest sense. The research programmes of the division are therefore concerned with materials, their formation, characterization, preservation, modification, and utilization. Four main categories are pursued: inorganic and surface chemistry; organic and polymer chemistry; process development, analysis, and methods; and kinetics, catalysis and spectroscopy."
The NRC has a long association with the compiling and editing of crystallographic data for intermetallic compounds. William B. Pearson of the physics division was a world-renowned publisher of such data in the 1950s and 1960s. Pearson was assisted for many years by Lawrence D. Calvert, who began as a PDF in the physics division (1952-54) and subsequently joined the chemistry division staff. When Pearson became the general editor of Structure Reports, a publication of the International Union of Crystallography, Calvert served as coeditor (metals) from 1960 to 1984.
With the advent of minicomputers (PDP-8), Calvert's accumulation of structure types for metals was converted into a computer-based file of structures for intermetallics. This file also contained programmes based on codes developed by A.C. Lawson at Los Alamos, NM, used for checking the validity of structures reported for publication in the magazine. From 1976 to 1981 one of these computer programmes was used to calculate powder diffraction patterns for all new metallic structures published by the International Centre for Diffraction Data. This programme added about 1,200 patterns to the metals subfile of the Powder Diffraction File, which totalled about 6,000 patterns. After 1982, this file was transferred to the NRC library (better known as CISTI -- the Canadian Institute for Scientific and Technical Information) where it was placed on a mainframe computer and continues to serve as an on-line database.
Pierre Villars, who had worked with Pearson at the University of Waterloo, came to work in Calvert's laboratory in the chemistry division in the early 1980s. Villars collected crystallographic data, which was added to Calvert's file. The whole body of work was published as the Third Edition of Pearson's Handbook of Crystallographic Data for Intermetallic Phases, a three-volume work of which a new edition should be published in late 1991.
Milestones in Building New
The work with membranes and reverse osmosis, begun by Srinivasa Sourirajan, FCIC, in the early 1960s, bore fruit in the 1970s in water reuse and food concentration. Electrohome's environmental division licensed the technology from NRC to produce and market one-inch tubular membranes for the treatment of effluents from manufacturing plants. This took place under an early industrial assistance (PILP) programme led by William Thayer and Oleh Kutowy, MCIC. Zenon Environmental Inc. (Burlington, Ont.) acquired this business from Electrohome in the 1980s.
In 1972, Colin Bayley, FCIC, and Audrie Tweedie, FCIC, received the Textile Science Award. This was only the third time in 18 years that award had been given for technical achievement. However, between 1970 and 1990 the largely standards-based programme of the textiles chemistry section gradually evolved into an investigation of causal factors in the stability of fibre and film-forming plastics.
Also in the 1970s, Morris Cohen and Peter Sewell developed a thin-film analysis process that furthered corrosion research. Later in the decade, Don Mitchell and Mike Graham, MCIC, began developing the surface spectroscopies of Auger, Sims and Mossbauer for corrosion research. Robert Back, FCIC, of photochemistry used lasers to study isotope separation. A furnace efficiency meter developed by Mitchell and John Phillips was commercially produced by two Canadian companies. Digby Williams and James Webb developed thin-film techniques for semiconductor fabrication. As society in general was becoming aware of the possibilities of computer simulation around 1978, M. Klein of the chemistry division was completing his 10th year in the field.
The 1980s witnessed many successes for the chemistry division. Notable events include:
981 David Wiles, FCIC, received The mical Institute of Canada's Dunlop
Award for research on polymerbased composites. (It is now the Macromolecular Science and Engineering Lecture Award.)
1982 W. Ross McKinnon began a successful project on battery research. Peter Hackett, FCIC, Enzo Malatesta, and Clive Willis, FCIC, unveiled a laser-mediated process for manufacturing vitamin D.
1983 Edward Whalley, FCIC, was recognized for his work on ice crystallography. Graham Burton, FCIC, and Keith Ingold, FCIC, discovered that vitamin E could inhibit oxidization and beta carotene was identified as an anti-carcinogen. Cohen received the Olin Palladium Medal of the Electrochemical Society.
1984 The NRC and the US National Bureau of Standards jointly published Steam Tables based on painstaking work by George Kell and Whalley dating back to the 1950s. The resulting equation of state for water and an analogous formulation for heavy water were approved by the International Association for the Properties of Steam.
1985 The divisions of chemistry and physics, in collaboration with Lumonics Inc., won the gold medal for technology transfer at the 1985 Canada Awards for Excellence.
At the request of Norther Telecom, Patrick Wong, MCIC, used laser raman spectroscopy to probe semiconductor doping processes.
1986 Sourirajan was the guest of honour at an International Membrane Research Conference arranged to mark the 25th anniversary of membrane research at the NRC and in Canada.
A cooperative programme with NRC's National Aeronautical Establishment (NAE, now the Institute for Aerospace Research) in the development of epoxy fortifier additives won the TTCP Achievement Award for progress in defence-related areas. Paul D. McLean and Robert Scott of the NAE and Andrew Garton of the chemistry division.
C.E. Capes, FCIC, received the R.S. Jane Memorial Lecture Award from the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering in recognition of exceptional achievements in chemical engineering and industrial chemistry.
1987 In January, the Rochester and Pittsburg Coal Co. opened a 50-ton/hour coal agglomeration plant using a novel technology developed by the chemical engineering section and licensed by the NRC.
1988 McKinnon on study leave at BellCore Laboratories contacted Yvon LePage at NRC who elucidated the structure of a new superconducting material. This discovery began further work at NRC on superconductivity.
1989 A high pressure-tuning infrared spectroscopic technique was invented which permitted the differentiation of cells from normal tissues and those derived from malignant tumours. Cells undergoing a transformation from the normal to the cancerous state were also characterized by changes in their infrared spectra. NRC received patents on both the technique and the methodology during the following year.
1990 NRC's modified polysulfone polymers for membrane separation were sought for commercial applications by Filtron Corp. and medical applications by Ibex Technologies Inc. NRC was conducting laboratory tests on membrane systems to be used for removing hazardous components from process and waste streams.
The foregoing examples show how the chemistry division initiated, acquired and absorbed changes in chemistry and maintained its record of outstanding scientific research.
By 1990, new government priorities such as the environment and the economy offered NRC the opportunity to work with Canadian industry applying existing research expertise to specific national issues. Meanwhile, the expansion of knowledge in such areas as molecular science and microstructural research were fueling a general re-evaluation of NRC research activities, including those of the chemistry division.
Toward the 21st Century
As the focus of NRC research began to move out of the lab and into the market place, new partnerships were sought with members of the Canadian chemical industry. To rationalize the organization of NRC and maximize the efforts of its scientists, five new instituts were created in June 1990, three of which incorporated the staff and research of the former chemistry division.
With a view to preserving and strengthening the world-class reputation of NRC, each institute contributes to the research and development required to make Canada a more competitive nation. For example, the Steacie Institute for Molecular Sciences offers stimulating basic research programmes in molecular science which will appeal to young chemists and provide support for other NRC research activities. The Institute for Microstructural Science directs work on chemical properties, performance and degradation of electronic material, and provides opportunities for important collaborative work with Canada's key high technology industries. Finally, the main focus for chemistry at NRC, the Institute for Environmental Chemistry, conducts environment-related research to assist industry to reduce the use of hazardous materials, as well as develop data bases to promote clean technologies.
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|Title Annotation:||part 2; Canada's National Research Council|
|Publication:||Canadian Chemical News|
|Date:||Nov 1, 1991|
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