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The state of discipline.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council recently released the Status of the Discipline Report prepared for it by the Chemical and Metallurgical Grant Selection Committee. Each grant selection committee was asked for prepare such a report emphasizing recent achievements, areas of expansion and opportunity for the future. The report from the chemical and metallurgical committee is summarized below, however, for a complete copy, in either official language, contact Sue Milne, Programme Officer, Engineering and Computing Sciences, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, 200 Kent Street, Ottawa KlA lH5; 613-996-1196. Comments arising from this report can be addressed to Milne or to Roy Littlewood, 665 Gayne Blvd., Burlington, Ont. L7T 3Wl.


At the time of the request to prepare a report (September 1989), the Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering Committee consisted of the following: group chairman David W. Bacon, FCIC (Queen's University); chairman K.J. Brimacombe (University of British Columbia); Leo A. Behie, MCIC (University of Calgary); Maher I. Boulos, MCIC Universite de Sherbrooke); Reinhold H. Crotogino, MCIC (PAPRICAN); A.E. Hamielec, FCIC (McMaster University); T.R. Jock (Nova-Husky); Anh Leduy, MCIC (Universite Laval); Jacob H. Masliyah, MCIC (University of Alberta); A.D. Pelton (Ecole Polytechnique); C.J. Simpson (Ontario Hydro), Juan H. Vera, MCIC (McGill University); G.C. Weatherly University of Toronto); and secretary R.H. Littlewood.

The focus of the committee falls on three research fields, which coincidentally have been identified as national priorities in Canadian research and technology.

- emerging technologies (biotechnology and advanced industrial materials);

- resource-based technologies (pulp and paper, chemicals, energy, minerals, steel and non-ferrous metals) and;

- environment.

Whether emerging or resource-based technologies are involved, the research is concerned primarily with the development of processes through fundamental studies, and application of basic knowledge to real systems. The main thrust is to link process and product (properties) quantitatively at each stage of a flow sheet and to provide the means for controlling processes. This activity clearly impacts on the Canadian economy by enhancing Canadian industrial competitiveness on the international scene.

This chemical/metallurgical (materials) engineering community at Canadian universities has grown in international stature and has stepped up to the research challenges of the past decade. Regretably, research funds provided by NSERC have not risen commensurately with the high performance of the research it supports.

Current State of the Discipline

Measures of Quality

The number of operating grants awarded by the committee has grown from 330 ($4.8-million) in 1980-81 to 384 ($10.1-million) in 1989-90. Over the 10 years from 1980 to 1990, funding of the chemical and metallurgical engineering committee (CME) has remained at 6% of the total NSERC funding for the operating grant programme. On the other hand, NSERC data shows that there has been a very vigorous growth in the discipline, driven in part by industry pulp and the success of NSERC's Research Partnership programme.

The research achievements of the committee's grantees have been recognized in a number of different ways. Of the eight Steacie awards made to engineers in the past 10 years, four have been given to CME grantees. Three of four Killam Prizes for Engineering have gone to Howard Rapson, HFCIC, W.H. Gauvin, HFCIC and J.K. Brimacombe, all of whom are funded by the committee.

A significant development in the past 10 years has been the formation of specialized centres at universities across Canada. These act as focal points for industrial involvement with university research and as nodes to link university research both within and among provinces.

The CME community in Canada is active in promoting international conferences and workshops. Canadian participation at international conferences is also very high. For example, 25 of the 400 papers presented at the 9th International Symposium on Plasma Chemistry in Italy in 1989 were authored by Canadians. Resource-based Technologies The critical issues for the survival of the Canadian resource-based industries are:

- to manufacture products which will be competitive in an increasingly quality conscious international market;

- to produce these products at a competitive cost;

- to conserve our resource base by using our resources more efficiently;

- to minimize the environmental impact of these industries.

Process engineering research and education play a key role in addressing these issues. Traditional resource based industries are by no means stagnant technologies. To maintain a strong competitive position internationally, an aggressive research effort must be continued.

To meet these challenges, the resource-based industries, such as the metallurgical and the pulp-and-paper industries, are applying the fundamentals of process and materials engineering to change from an artisan to a science-based approach. Modeling techniques are being applied towards a more quantitative approach to manufacturing, to development of new products with improved properties and to lower costs. Research in the fundamentals of degradation and corrosion is playing an important role in the development of materials which can be used successfully in more hostile environments. Advanced process control technologies, statistical process control, new sensor technology and artificial intelligence are being applied to make products with more uniform qualities.

Emerging Technologies

The emerging technologies will pay a major role in maintaining Canada's competitive edge in the industrial marketplace for designated strategic areas. Chemical and metallurgical engineering is taking a leadership role by building on its strengths. In biotechnology, the revolution has already occurred with the development of hydridoma cell technology, recombinant engineering, and recombinant insect cell viral systems used in the large-scale production of human proteins or biopesticides.

At present, commercialization of biotechnology is occurring through biochemical engineering of new bioproducts such as tissue plasminogen activate coming into the marketplace and new bioprocess equipment such as that used to process large quantities of human vaccines being sold by major vendors.

In advanced materials (including structural and functional ceramics, composites, advanced alloys, surface coatings, biomaterials, etc.), the discipline is also in a natural leadership role. This involvement is increasing with the development of new materials and an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the relationships between microstructure and properties.

Future Trends

A major trend in the discipline is the optimization of existing process technology to meet quality and cost objectives as well as the development of new process technology. Although much work is being done on the characterization of new advanced materials, the economical processing of these new materials is largely unstudied. In the future, we will increase our ability to obtain the desired properties of materials through the control of microstructures, and we will be able to apply this knowledge quantitatively to determine process parameters. In biochemical engineering, the issue is large-scale production of bioproducts in new generation bioreactors and their separation in new downstream-unit operations. In all areas of processing (pulp and paper, materials, biotechnology, shaping and forming metals etc.), advances will be made in the application of fundamentals to modeling and control. The control of processes will be aided by the development of new senors, and their integration with modern process control technology and knowledge-based systems.

The development of databases will permit design of new processes which will permit the conception of new products and processes, and the modernization of existing technology.

Environmental issues will be of increasing concern, eg. the conservation or our resources, reduction of energy consumption and the reduction of emissions through process changes and improved process control. Energy from waste and recycling technology must also be developed.

Forecast of Funding Pressure

Over the next five years, there will be enormous pressure to increase substantially funding for this committee. This is particularly true in the emerging areas because:

- the scale of experiments required in universities has to be large (ie. pilot scale) to make meaningful contributions to industry;

- the sophisticated instrumentation needed is very expensive. Research in material science in general relies heavily on characterization techniques which needs expensive equipment;

- the need to attract the highest-calibre graduate students with considerable talent;

- the need to cope with the rapid acceleration of many young and talented researchers that are going to be needed if Canada is going to win in the 'emerging technologies'.
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Title Annotation:Government Scan; Discipline Report by the Chemical and Metallurgical Grant Selection Committee submitted to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Article Type:column
Date:Jun 1, 1991
Previous Article:Petromont.
Next Article:The Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering: the first 25 years.

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