Patty Wellborn

Email: patty-wellborn@news.ok.ubc.ca


 

UBCO researchers Farhad Ahmadijokani and Mohammad Arjmand have developed a cost-effective material that can help remove toxic chemicals, like cancer-treatment drugs, from water supplies.

UBCO researchers Farhad Ahmadijokani and Mohammad Arjmand have developed a cost-effective material that can help remove toxic chemicals, like cancer-treatment drugs, from water supplies.

UBCO researchers help protect people from toxic chemicals

‘What goes in, must come out’ is a familiar refrain. It is especially pertinent to the challenges facing UBC researchers who are investigating methods to remove chemicals and pharmaceuticals from public water systems.

Cleaning products, organic dyes and pharmaceuticals are finding their way into water bodies with wide-ranging negative implications to health and the environment, explains Mohammad Arjmand, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UBC Okanagan.

And while pharmaceuticals like a chemotherapy drug called methotrexate can be highly effective for patients, once the drugs vacate their bodies they become a high risk for human health and the environment.

“Methotrexate is an anti-cancer drug used at a high dose in chemotherapy to treat cancer, leukemia, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases,” he says. “However, the drug is not absorbed by the body and ends up in water channels from hospital waste, sewage and surface waters.”

Removing these types of contaminants from wastewater can be costly and complicated explains Arjmand, who is a Canada Research Chair in Advanced Materials and Polymer Engineering.

“We work on modifying the structure of adsorbent nanomaterials to control their ability to attract or repel chemicals,” says Arjmand.

While his team of researchers was looking at methods to remove the anti-cancer drugs from water supplies—they designed a porous nanomaterial, called a metal-organic framework (MOF), that is capable of adsorbing these pollutants from water.

Adsorption, he explains, takes place when the molecules of a chemical adhere to the surface of a solid substance—in this case, the chemotherapy drug sticks to the surface of the adsorbent, which is Arjmand’s MOF.

“We precisely engineer the structure of our MOFs to remove the anti-cancer drug from aqueous solutions quickly,” says Farhad Ahmadijokani, a doctoral student in the Nanomaterials and Polymer Nanocomposites Laboratory directed by Arjmand.

Arjmand points out the MOF is an affordable technique for the removal of chemicals from liquids and waters and is an effective method to improve wastewater systems.

“The high-adsorption capacity, good recyclability and excellent structural stability make our MOF an impressive candidate for the removal of methotrexate from the aqueous solutions,” he adds. “Our research shows that particular pharmaceutical can be adsorbed rapidly and effectively onto our aluminum-based metal-organic framework.”

The research was conducted in collaboration with UBC, Sharif University of Technology and the pharmaceutical engineering department at the Soniya College of Pharmacy. It is published in the latest edition of the Journal of Environmental Management.

bout UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Class project may change the entire shipping industry

A UBCO student project developed a method to make shipping containers immediately identifiable by using artificial intelligence.

With hundreds of thousands of packages and shipments crossing the globe, especially during the holiday season, the industry has turned to UBC Okanagan researchers to develop better ways to track parcels.

Marine shipping accounts for 20 per cent of all Canadian imports and exports, so there’s little wonder that the maritime transportation industry is keen on improving its tracking capabilities, says UBCO’s Zheng Liu.

Liu, a professor in the School of Engineering, says his team of student researchers are using deep learning algorithms, including cloud computing technology, to help create a monitoring software that can be used by shipping companies to track shipments more effectively.

“Deep learning works like the human brain by making smart conclusions with the information at hand,” explains Liu. “Our algorithm takes the shipping container code, even one that is not clearly legible, and is able to extract its information accurately.”

When shipped, containers use a common code that tells the monitoring software where the container is from and where it is going. The researchers were looking to improve existing methods—today’s systems locate the code on the container, and then quickly and accurately recognize the code.

By using a state-of-the art algorithm and advanced tracking hardware, the researchers were able to get the system to recognize the tracking information in less than a second. In comparison with the manual check and entry, the solution can greatly improve efficiency at the port.

In collaboration with CANSCAN, a company that uses artificial intelligence to secure shipping containers, the UBC student researchers have been developing tools for use at the Port of Montreal, which is an international container port that services Toronto and the rest of central Canada. The port tracks nearly two million containers annually—and these containers are currently being tracked with manual systems.

The student project, called Applying Machine Vision and Artificial Intelligence to Maritime Transportation, won top prize at the school’s capstone engineering contest last spring. The goal was to make the shipping containers immediately identifiable using artificial intelligence. This research will free up time for workers at the port who still input data manually.

“By digitizing the logistics of shipping containers, it helps to further improve shipping transportation to ultimately ensure that packages destined for our doorstep arrive on-time while being tracked from the sender to us,” says Liu.

The research, with funding from Mitacs, was published in the latest edition of the IEEE Xplore journal.

 

School of Engineering Mohammad Zarifi has made significant improvements to the real-time sensors that monitor frost and ice build-up on airplanes and turbines.

School of Engineering Mohammad Zarifi has made significant improvements to the real-time sensors that monitor frost and ice build-up on airplanes and turbines.

Ice detection from microwave sensors rising to new heights

New UBC Okanagan research is changing the way aircraft and wind turbine operators are addressing the risks related to ice build-up. In a follow-up study from one released previously this year, Assistant Professor Mohammad Zarifi and his team at UBCO’s Okanagan MicroElectronics and Gigahertz Applications (OMEGA) Lab, have broadened the scope and functionality of their ice sensors. “We received a great deal of interest from the aviation and renewable energy industries stemming from our initial findings which pushed us to expand the boundaries of the sensor’s responsiveness and accuracy,” explains Zarifi. Ice build-up on aircraft and wind turbines can impact the safety and efficiency of their systems, he notes. In this latest research, the researchers focused on improving the real-time response of the sensors to determining frost and ice build-up. The sensors can identify in real-time these accumulations while calculating the rate of melting. This is crucial data for aviation, for keeping flights on time, and renewable energy applications, says Zarifi. “Power generation output of wind turbines diminishes as a result of ice accumulations,” he adds. “So, the industry sees great promise in sensing and de-icing solutions that can mitigate those reductions in efficiency.” Zarifi says the patented sensor, which includes a protective layer, is now being tested by the aviation industry through a rigorous approval process. This needs to be done before it can become a permanent fixture on aircraft. He notes that recently announced funding from the Department of National Defense will enable his team to continue to improve the sensor’s capabilities. Zarifi is also collaborating with a number of wind turbine companies to adapt the sensors into wind farms. The wind farm application is a slightly more straightforward proposition, he says, because the sensors can be mounted at the same altitude of the blades without having to be mounted to the blades—this removes certain calculation variables that are related to motion. In the midst of these breakthroughs, the researchers have uncovered another first when it comes to ice sensing technology. Their latest innovation can sense salty ice, which freezes at colder temperatures. Interest in understanding and monitoring saltwater ice formation is increasing due to issues caused by saltwater ice on oil rigs and marine infrastructure. Zarifi and his team at OMEGA Lab are working towards the introduction of microwave/radar-based technology to address this challenge. By incorporating an antenna into the sensor, the results can be shared in real-time with the operator in order to address the build-up. Zarifi says his team is as excited as the industry partners to see how their microwave and antenna, which have proven to be durable and robust, can be modified for various applications including ice and moisture sensing. The research was funded by a National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grant, Mitacs Accelerate Grant, and grants from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and the Canadian Department of National Defense. It was published in the journal Applied Materials and Interfaces.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Photo caption: UBCO researchers Negin Kazemian and her supervisor, Assistant Professor Sepideh Pakpour, are investigating the internal dynamics of fecal matter donors and recipients to determine the effectiveness of the therapy.

Genetic analysis helps ensure successful fecal microbiota transplants

Could number two be number one when it comes to combating recurrent Clostridium difficile (CDI) infections? Using genetic material analysis and machine learning, UBC researchers have pinpointed several key factors to ensure successful fecal microbiota transplants (FMT), which have proven successful in treating bacterial infections in the gut including illnesses like C. difficile, Crohn’s Disease, Colitis and even obesity, explains lead author Negin Kazemian. “This therapy is still in its infancy, but studies like ours are helping identify key contributors to its overall success,” says Kazemian, a graduate student at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering. Kazemian and her supervisor, Assistant Professor Sepideh Pakpour, are investigating the internal dynamics of both donors and recipients to set out a formula for the effectiveness of the therapy. C. difficile is one of the most frequently identified health care-associated infection in North America, she adds. Once a patient gets it, the illness often recurs, making a significant negative impact on a patient’s gut microorganisms. Kazemian explains that severely damaged gut ecosystems, like someone who has had C. difficile, are not self-renewing. Therefore, FMT can help by restoring damaged systems through the recreation of the original ecosystem, or the construction of an entirely new and alternative ecosystem. “In our study, we showed that the success of gut ecological recovery through FMT is dependent on several factors, including the donor gut microbiome—the presence of specific bacteria—as well as the recipient’s pre-FMT gut community structures and the absence of specific bacteria and fungi.” Some previous studies have pointed to the possibility of “super” donors, but these new findings indicate the relationship between donors and recipients is much more complex. Pakpour says the notion of the super-donor is oversimplified due to the observed short-term fluctuations. A recipient’s microbiota may be just as important to consider when predicting treatment outcomes, especially in unbalanced conditions such as ulcerative colitis. “Take, for example, blood transplants where we have a strong understanding of the four main blood groups or types, and how they interact with one another,” says Pakpour. “With fecal transplants the research up to this point has not been as clear in what constitutes a good match or compatibility.” Working with data from the University of Alberta Hospital, Kazemian and Pakpour analyzed the gut composition and DNA from samples extracted before and after FMT. According to Kazemian, their findings indicate that there isn’t a “one stool fits all” approach to ensure transplant success. “The data illustrates that the unique microorganisms in everyone’s bodies respond differently over time, and this has profound implications on whether these transplants work well or not.” The researchers suggest that preparing donors and patients’ gut ecosystems prior to transplant, maybe by using metabolites, would potentially sync their microbiota leading the way to a higher probability of transplant success. The new research is published in Nature Research’s Scientific Report.
UBCO master's student Behrooz Khatir measures liquid to be applied to an omniphobic film during testing inside the OPERA lab at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering.

UBCO master's student Behrooz Khatir measures liquid to be applied to an omniphobic film during testing inside the OPERA lab at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering.

New coating can eliminate complex disinfectant procedures for protective face shields

Acting like an invisible force field, a new liquid coating being developed by UBC Okanagan researchers may provide an extra layer of protection for front-line workers.

Researchers at the Okanagan Polymer Engineering Research and Applications (OPERA) Lab have developed a coating that repels nearly all substances off a surface. And that new coating will make cleaning personal protective equipment a little bit easier for front-line health care workers, explains Kevin Golovin, an assistant professor at UBCO’s School of Engineering and director at OPERA.

Surfaces that can repel a broad range of liquids are called omniphobic, explains UBCO master's student and lead author of the study Behrooz Khatir. Working in Golovin’s lab, Khatir has created a spray-on solution that can make any surface, including a face shield, omniphobic.

“Omniphobic—all-liquid repellent—films can repel a broad range of liquids, but the applicability of these coatings has always been limited to silicon wafers or smooth glass,” says Khatir. “This new formulation can coat and protect just about any surface, including metals, paper, ceramics and even plastics.”

The two-layer coating involves placing an ultra-smooth silica layer on a surface and then functionalizing this layer with a highly-reactive silicone to effectively block all kinds of liquids from sticking on the surface, explains Golovin.

Not only does the coating repel countless substances, but even under harsh exposures like UV light, acids and high temperatures, the coating maintains its resistance qualities. And Golovin notes, if the coating does become damaged it can be easily and repeatedly repaired, fully restoring the omniphobic properties to their initial state.

Golovin recently received COVID-19 funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to optimize the coating for health care face shields so they stay clean, in partnership with Kelowna-based survivability products manufacturer PRE Labs Inc.

“This technology has many applications, but we are currently focused on providing a solution that will keep our nurses and doctors safe and effective,” says Golovin. “This new coating will prevent droplets or microbes from sticking to a face shield. This makes disinfecting face shields feasible just with water rather than requiring complex disinfectant procedures.”

The original research was recently published in the ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces journal, with funding support from NSERC.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

New device aims to isolate and remove droplets and airborne viruses

UBC Okanagan researchers are collaborating with Kelowna-based Care Health Meditech to develop a new device that isolates and eliminates airborne droplets and germs associated with COVID-19 and other illnesses.

With operating principles similar to a vacuum hood, the Airborne Infection Isolation and Removal (AIIR) device is initially targeted at the dental industry to improve the safety of both staff and patients. Many dental procedures generate aerosols, or small droplets of saliva and blood, that are ejected into the air. These aerosols float in the room and can contain dangerous particles that contain viruses like SARS-COV2, influenza, tuberculosis, HPV and aerosolized mercury, explains Care Health Meditech Managing Partner Stephen Munro.

“To aid in the development of AIIR, we turned to UBC researchers for their expertise in multiphase flows and computational fluid dynamics which will help evolve the design ensuring its effectiveness,” Munro says.

Transmission of the COVID-19 virus is thought to occur through breathing in respiratory droplets, touching contaminated surfaces or inhaling particles in the air. According to Munro, the key to controlling the transmission is to isolate and eliminate COVID-19 contaminated air and droplets, particularly aerosols.

While the AIIR device is currently being used by some dentists, UBCO researchers are now looking at ways to improve the design through computational fluid dynamics simulation and specific testing in Associate Professor Sunny Li’s Thermal Management and Multiphase Flows lab.

“Our team is looking at the device’s size and geometry in connection with its airflow dynamics and the dynamics of droplets and particles to make it more accurate and efficient,” says Li, who teaches multiphase flows and is one of the lead researchers on the project.

Li is working with Assistant Professors Joshua Brinkerhoff and Sina Kheirkhah from the School of Engineering, and Associate Professor Jonathan Little from the School of Health and Exercise Sciences to provide design modifications and recommendations.

During testing, dental procedures will be mimicked in the lab with a dental mannequin connected to a breathing simulator. Particle Imaging Velocimetry and High-speed Shadow Photography Imaging will be used to visualize airflow and track the motion of all droplets. Droplet motion and trajectory can vary depending on the droplet size and local airflow, explains Li.

While work is being done in the labs to optimize and improve the device for frontline acute healthcare settings, due to high demand Care Health Meditech’s initial AIIR device is already being delivered to dentists in both Canada and the USA.

“Although we are targeting the dental industry, there’s an opportunity to expand into other areas where the risk of airborne infection is high,” says Munro, adding his company has already developed in-house manufacturing capabilities for the device.

“The AIIR has the potential to reduce the risk of patients and dentists being exposed to the COVID-19 virus, and will allow dentistry to return to near-normal procedures,” says Munro. “This is significant for Canada and the world as it reduces the need for production and the purchase of personal protection equipment (PPE) and in a few years we aim to have the potential to reduce the need for PPE and N95 respirators for routine procedures in hospitals, doctor’s offices and care facilities.”

The research is funded by a Mitacs Accelerate Grant.

UBC Associate Professor Sunny Li, right, discusses adaptations to the Airborne Infection Isolation and Removal system, with his doctoral student Mojtaba Zabihi and Care Health Meditech Managing Partner Stephen Munro, centre.

UBC Associate Professor Sunny Li, right, discusses adaptations to the Airborne Infection Isolation and Removal system, with his doctoral student Mojtaba Zabihi and Care Health Meditech Managing Partner Stephen Munro, centre.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Rick Mercer will deliver the 2020 keynote address. Mercer was a 2010 UBC honorary degree recipient.

Rick Mercer will deliver the 2020 keynote address. Mercer was a 2010 UBC honorary degree recipient.

Virtual ceremony takes place Wednesday as more than 1,900 students graduate

UBC Okanagan’s Convocation of 2020 will go down in history as a unique event. Instead of students, parents and faculty joining together on campus, the celebrations will be held virtually.

“The context of 2020 has made necessary a very different approach to our graduation ceremony this year,” says Deborah Buszard, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UBC’s Okanagan campus. “While the ceremony will be virtual, the remarkable achievements of our students are very real and worthy of recognition. I invite everyone to join me in celebrating the Class of 2020.”

This year, 1,925 students have qualified for convocation from UBC Okanagan—that includes 1,600 undergraduates, more than 270 students who have earned a master’s degree and 45 newly-conferred doctorate degrees.

While convocation is a time of celebration, it’s also a time of long-kept traditions. The program will begin with Chancellor Lindsay Gordon presiding over the virtual ceremony. UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa J. Ono and Buszard will both address the Class of 2020 live, dressed in full academic regalia. And graduates will have an opportunity to take a virtual selfie with President Ono.

UBC has arranged for Canadian icon and comedian Rick Mercer to deliver the 2020 keynote address. Mercer was a 2010 UBC honorary degree recipient.

Students have had the opportunity to purchase graduation regalia, special graduation gifts, create a personalized commemorative graduation video clip, download congratulatory signs and sign a guest book with congratulatory messages.

The virtual ceremony will last 45 minutes and it will be livestreamed on June 17, with a pre-show beginning at 2:30 p.m. The ceremony begins at 3 p.m. and a 20-minute virtual alumni reception takes place at 3:55 p.m. The ceremony can also be watched on YouTube, Facebook or Panopto, a platform that is accessible from many countries. To find out more, visit: www.virtualgraduation.ok.ubc.ca

“These are, indeed, unusual times, and UBC students have shown once again their resilience and ability to cope and thrive in the face of change,” says Buszard. “With everything they have accomplished over these past months and over the course of their studies, I couldn’t be more proud of the extraordinary UBC Okanagan Class of 2020. Congratulations.”

This year’s medal recipients

  • Governor General's Gold Medal: Mike Tymko
  • Lieutenant Governor's Medal Program for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation: Dominica Patterson
  • UBC Medal in Fine Arts: Aiden de Vin
  • UBC Medal in Arts: Ellie Jane Fedec
  • UBC Medal in Science: Nicholas Kayban
  • UBC Medal in Education: Alyssa Pembleton
  • UBC Medal in Nursing: Christopher Popel
  • UBC Medal in Management: Amanda Campbell
  • UBC Medal in Human Kinetics: Madison Pows
  • UBC Medal in Engineering: Tyler Ho

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBC Okanagan’s Rehan Sadiq, left, discusses drinking water assessment tools and benchmarking strategies with students Gyan K C Shrestha and Sarin Raj Pokhrel.

UBC Okanagan’s Rehan Sadiq, left, discusses drinking water assessment tools and benchmarking strategies with students Gyan K C Shrestha and Sarin Raj Pokhrel.

UBC researchers establish performance assessment guidelines for local water utilities

Researchers at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering are launching a community-focused research program as they seek to assess the performance of water utilities and municipalities across the Okanagan Valley.

The project, funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), will serve as a foundation for analyzing the drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services for several communities across the Okanagan region.

“Although all the systems are independent, they all face the similar challenges when it comes to rapid population growth, aging infrastructure and climate change,” explains Rehan Sadiq, professor of civil engineering and lead researcher on the project. “Our goal is to develop a data-sharing platform, assessment tools and benchmarking strategies through a ‘one water approach’ to enable continuous monitoring and improvements to the systems.”

The four-phase project will investigate state-of-the-art practices in urban water management. At the same time, researchers will identify and develop performance indicators, performance assessment and benchmarking framework, and create a portal for information analysis, sharing and learning.

The Okanagan Valley is a mix of urban and rural communities serviced by small to medium-sized water utilities, municipalities and regional districts, explains Sadiq. Signing on to the ‘one water approach’ will allow these systems to share their collective data and learn from each other practices and experiences.

“There are so many similarities within our infrastructure and usage that being involved in a comparative study just makes sense,” says Ed Hoppe, water quality and customer care supervisor at the City of Kelowna.

The Okanagan Basin Water Board is also a stakeholder in the research. For the past 50 years, the board has been providing leadership on water issues that span the valley.

“To have access to the resources and researchers at UBC is invaluable for our communities, and will help us continue to address our water needs into the future,” says Anna Warwick Sears, executive director of the Okanagan Basin Water Board.

With funding from NSERC’s Collaborative Research and Develop Grant, the researchers will spend the next four years analyzing and developing tools to maintain and improve the region’s water systems. The goal, says Sadiq, is to create clear benchmarks that all water systems can strive to reach.

“What I’m proposing is we should all work together to identify where we are based on existing resources, determine how can we do better and learn from each other—that is performance benchmarking,” he says. “It has to be a continuous performance improvement process. It exists in the corporate sector, it exists in the manufacturing sector, it exists in all other industries. Why don’t we treat water the same way?”

The project is also supported by the City of Kelowna, City of West Kelowna, City of Vernon, District of Peachland, District of Lake Country, Town of Osoyoos, Regional District of North Okanagan and Okanagan Basin Water Board. It is expected that more community partners from the Valley will also join this project.

“Water is often taken for granted, especially in the Okanagan,” says Sadiq. “But it’s so vital to our existence. Through this research, we look forward to empowering our communities to address their water needs. And ensure everyone has safe, and clean water to drink.”

Learn more about the one water approach at: ok.ubc.ca/okanagan-stories/one-water

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBCO researchers are looking at creating new policy and planning tools to address flooding in the Okanagan Valley.

UBCO researchers are looking at creating new policy and planning tools to address flooding in the Okanagan Valley.

Engineers create risk assessment and vulnerability tools

With many eyes on rising lake levels these days, UBC researchers from the Lifecycle Management Laboratory are partnering with the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) to develop new policy and planning tools to address flooding in the Okanagan Valley.

Given recent flooding and its disastrous consequences on communities throughout the region, this research project will help local governments make informed decisions to mitigate flood-related risks, says UBCO researcher Kh Md Nahiduzzaman.

“Communities like Kelowna are facing flooding on a regular basis, so creating models based on historical trends and future projections is vital for decision-makers,” explains Nahiduzzaman, who is currently a visiting professor and teaching at UBCO’s School of Engineering.

According to Anna Warwick Sears, executive director of OBWB, these tools are needed by the region’s stakeholders. The OBWB has contributed more than $37,000 to help UBC engineers create modelling tools and flood protection strategies.

“Cities across the Okanagan are increasingly at risk of repeated flooding due to a variety of factors, including the impacts of climate change.”

Sears points to the impact of flooding on neighbourhoods from a social, financial and environmental perspective.

“What we need is a shift in focus from a flood-protection approach to an adaptive resilience approach,” says Nahiduzzaman.

The research will develop risk and vulnerability assessment tools, make future risk projections, review current decision-making tools and identify ways that multiple levels of government can work together seamlessly.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Chief Scientist at PRE Labs Mazeyar Parvinzadeh Gashti tests several different soap products on a protective face shield.

Chief Scientist at PRE Labs Mazeyar Parvinzadeh Gashti tests several different soap products on a protective face shield.

Fogged-up protective face shields proving problematic

A tweet for help, a response from a researcher and a collaboration with a safety products manufacturing company have frontline healthcare workers seeing clearly through their protective face shields.

A few weeks ago, UBC School of Nursing Professor Sally Thorne tweeted that nurses, health care professionals and frontline workers were looking for an anti-fogging solution for glasses, goggles and visors for people who need to wear a tight-fitting mask.

UBC Okanagan researcher Kevin Golovin replied to Thorne, suggesting that his team at the Okanagan Polymer Engineering Research and Applications Lab might be able to help. Golovin conducts research on specific material coatings, investigating ice-repellent surfaces and water-resistant textiles. He reached out to colleagues at Kelowna-based PRE Labs—a company that manufactures protective products including face shields. This started the ball rolling, with a number of people offering to help.

For many frontline workers, especially those who wear corrective lenses, dealing with fogged-up glasses or face shields was part of the daily routine, explains Sybil Hoiss, a clinical nurse specialist with Interior Health.

“Personal protective equipment (PPE) fogging up has been a nuisance for staff for many years,” says Hoiss. “Even before COVID-19.”

But for anyone working on the frontlines during COVID-19, the shifts were long and people were wearing their PPE for extended hours.

Golovin says there are a number of DIY solutions to fogging, including rubbing soap or toothpaste on the inside of goggles, facemasks or steamy bathroom mirrors. For a test, he reached for a substance the hospital had on hand. Soap.

“We did a quick test by dipping plastics into a soap bath made with ordinary dishwashing soap and it worked well,” says Golovin. “There are no negative side effects on the plastic and the surface remains clear as long as there is no agitation.”

While the idea of dipping a protective shield in a mixture of dishwashing soap and water looked positive, Hoiss notes that was not a practical solution in a clinical setting. The next idea was to create a soap mixture that could be sprayed directly onto a clean shield. They also needed to create a system that would provide fog-free visions for a minimum of three to four hours.

Mazeyar Parvinzadeh Gashti, chief scientist at PRE Labs, got to work experimenting with some ideas.

“We did a couple of tests to evaluate the performance of a diluted soap,” he explains. “We added 2 ml dishwashing soap into 100 ml regular tap water and then sprayed the inner side of the face shield which was left at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to be completely dried. The face shield became anti-fogging.”

Other tests included wiping the inside, instead of letting it air dry. Using a paper towel left marks, but when the inside was rubbed with a microfibre tissue, it seemed to work perfectly. The researchers tested the pH of each soap—if they were acidic they wouldn’t work.

Parvinzadeh says they tested three different types of soap, including commercial-grade, and several cleaning products supplied by Interior Health including a disposable soap towelette.

The towelette worked, and since it was already on supply the idea has since been implemented. The process is easy and convenient for frontline staff. And, says PRE Lab CEO Brad Field, it works.

“It is a simple, yet elegant solution,” says Field. “Identified through industry and academia collaboration in very short order, this solution improves the ability of frontline professionals to more effectively utilize their PPE and at no cost to Interior Health.”

Golovin is pleased how social media catalyzed the whole project: a tweet led to a conversation that led to a small collaborative side project, and a solution was ready in a matter of days.

“Right now, it isn’t about research that helps people in five years or even five months,” says Golovin. “It’s about coming together today with solutions that can save lives tomorrow. That means academia, local business and healthcare professionals working cooperatively to solve the most pressing problems.”

Hoiss says the collaboration is also a step towards making the workday a bit easier for the healthcare and frontline workers.

“This is excellent news because we can use a product we already have in hospital,” says Hoiss. “On behalf of everyone who has suffered with fogged-up shields, I want to say thank you for the work done looking for a solution. This shows how teamwork and collaboration across disciplines can yield solutions we thought were elusive.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca