Patty Wellborn

Email: patty-wellborn@news.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

Assistant Professor Mahmudur Fatmi wants to hear how COVID-19 has impacted people’s travel, whether it’s running errands, going on a road trip or a cancelling that trip of a lifetime.

Assistant Professor Mahmudur Fatmi wants to hear how COVID-19 has impacted people’s travel, whether it’s running errands, going on a road trip or a cancelling that trip of a lifetime.

Online survey examines out-of-home and in-home activities

The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted everyone in Canada and around the world. While people are being asked to stay at home and maintain social distancing, a UBC Okanagan professor is collecting data about people’s travel habits.

Assistant Professor Mahmudur Fatmi leads the Centre for Transportation and Land Use Research (CeTLUR) at UBC’s Okanagan campus. His research includes travel behaviour analysis, transportation and land use interaction, urban system simulation, autonomous and shared mobility, activity-based modelling, and road safety. His research findings help to develop effective transportation and land use plans and policies, as well as assist in infrastructure investment decision making.

While travel has pretty much ground to a halt, Fatmi is examining how these unprecedented events impact individuals’ daily and long-distance travel. For example, he is investigating how people have adjusted their out-of-home activities with in-home activities such as online shopping. He is also studying the purpose of travel such as to pick-up online orders and analyzing whether there is an increase in the usage of any travel mode such as cycling.  

Fatmi’s  COVID -19 Survey for assessing Travel impact (COST) online survey collects information on how COVID–19 has affected participant’s daily and long-distance travel decisions.

What is the goal of this study?

COVID–19 has significantly affected individuals’ travel decisions around the world and little is known about this impact. The COST survey will collect information regarding the impact of COVID-19 travel restrictions on people daily (weekday and weekend) and their long-distance travel.

What are you hoping to learn?

The findings of this research will provide insights on how people have adapted their daily out-of-home activities such as work and shopping and switched to in-home activities such as work-from-home and online shopping. This study will also explore individuals’ mental well-being after completing a task that involved travel and an in-home activity.

This study will also focus on long-distance travel, asking people about long-distance trips that were completed and those that were cancelled during this unusual time. The findings of this research will provide important behavioural insights regarding the travel adjustments people are making due to this pandemic, which is expected to assist in the development of policies to minimize disruptions due to such unprecedented scenarios.

For the most part, people have been staying at home in response to the outbreak. Can you explain what specific answers you are looking for?

This survey collects information regarding individuals’ current out-of-home travel, and how it has changed due to COVID-19. It looks at how individuals are spending time by performing in-home activities, online ordering, travelling to pick-up online orders, among others. For example, the survey collects information about respondents’ weekday travel such as why they are travelling, how frequently they are travelling and what travel mode they are using.

What are you going to do with this data?

The findings of this research will provide important behavioural insights on the changes in travel demand during the COVID–19 outbreak.

For example, this study offers insights into: what types of activities people are performing more frequently? What type of travel mode they are using more frequently?

This understanding will help policymakers identify priorities for minimizing disruptions due to the COVID-19 outbreak while developing policies and making infrastructure investment decisions.

How can people take part in this research?

People can take the survey here: engineering.ok.ubc.ca/surveys/cost

And they can learn more about the survey at: cetlur.ok.ubc.ca/surveys/cost

There is also information on Facebook and Twitter.

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’s Morad Abdelaziz and Yuri Rodrigues have been researching the impact microgrids would have on the distribution and conservation of electrical power.

UBCO’s Morad Abdelaziz and Yuri Rodrigues have been researching the impact microgrids would have on the distribution and conservation of electrical power.

Researchers shine a light on ways to keep the energy flowing

With the goal of eliminating brownouts and blackouts, new research from UBC’s Okanagan School of Engineering is redesigning how electricity is distributed within power grids.

The research describes a power system operation that will consist of multiple microgrids—separate grids operating like individual islands that can disconnect from the main power supply and run independently.

These islanded systems will provide electricity to smaller geographical areas, such as cities and large neighbourhoods. In the case of a failure in the main system, the local grid operation system will keep the lights on.

“The microgrid will recognize the problem in the main power system and will isolate itself, avoiding previously inevitable power outages,” explains Yuri Rodrigues, a UBCO electrical engineering doctoral student and study co-author.

He explains, however, that a continued supply of power in this mode will depend on locally available generating reserves. This means that conserving energy is vital to keeping the islanded grid operational for as long as possible.

Rodrigues describes their approach as the difference between using the sports mode on your car versus the eco mode. The microgrid can distribute power at a slightly diluted level that won’t negatively impact electronics while allowing power to flow for longer periods without running out.

“Our new proposed method takes a more sustainable approach, allowing the microgrids to conserve power so any shortfall can be better handled by the microgrid itself,” Rodrigues says.

The challenge with using this concept in a larger system is that those larger systems may experience too much instability—this could result in the entire system shutting down. Rodrigues points to a similar occurrence in 2003 when most of the eastern seaboard of North America collapsed leaving millions in the dark.

Many safeguards already exist within power distribution systems to enlarge the system operation, but they only help by prioritizing power based on urgency, meaning hospitals and infrastructure would take precedence over regular consumer needs, he says.

This new approach of conserving power that is distributed within microgrids and thereby reducing or eliminating brownouts and blackouts could soon be an option for power systems around the world. It would also allow for global energy conservation that would decrease the network's demand and improve the self-sufficiency of the microgrid as a whole.

According to Rodrigues, their testing indicates this approach can significantly enhance microgrid autonomy and stability with no impact on the wider power system.

“There are many components that make up a power system from generation to distribution before electricity arrives in the outlets of consumers,” says Rodrigues. “Creating a system this is more self-sufficient, robust and sustainable is key to creating a reliable and blackout-free experience for future power consumers.”

The research, published in the Journal of Electrical Power and Energy Systems, was supported by several agencies in Brazil and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

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

Sepideh Pakpour, a School of Engineering assistant professor, says test show levitating human plasma may lead to faster, more reliable, portable and simpler disease detection.

Sepideh Pakpour, a School of Engineering assistant professor, says test show levitating human plasma may lead to faster, more reliable, portable and simpler disease detection.

Floating human plasma helps researchers detect diseases like opioid addiction

New research from the UBC's Okanagan campus, Harvard Medical School and Michigan State University suggests that levitating human plasma may lead to faster, more reliable, portable and simpler disease detection.

The researchers used a stream of electricity that acted like a magnet and separated protein from blood plasma. Plasma is the clear, liquid portion of blood that remains after red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and other cellular components are removed.

“Human plasma proteins contain information on the occurrence and development of addiction and diseases,” says Sepideh Pakpour, assistant professor with UBCO's School of Engineering, and one of the authors of the research.

Pakpour is using the proteins to predict opioid dependencies and addictions, but the findings could one day lead to medical diagnosis using the technology.

As plasma proteins are different densities, when separated the proteins levitate at different heights, and therefore become identifiable. An evaluation of these types of proteins and how they group together can paint a picture that identifies whether a patient has the possibility of getting a disease or becoming addicted to drugs like opioids.

“We compared the differences between healthy proteins and diseased proteins to set benchmarks,” says Pakpour. “With this information and the plasma levitation, we were able to accurately detect rare proteins that are only found in individuals with opioid addictions.”

According to Pakpour, the researchers are particularly excited about the possibility of developing a portable and accurate new diagnostic tool for health care practitioners.

“More investigation is required, but our findings are certainly a step forward towards an optical imaging disease detection tool,” she adds.

The five-minute test uses machine learning and predictive models. It may one day lead to tools that can not only diagnose diseases, but also help practitioners prescribe medications that won’t lead to drug dependencies.

The researchers are now evaluating other dependencies and diseases to establish roadmaps for detection.

The research is supported by internal grants from the department of anesthesiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School, and the Precision Health Program at Michigan State University. It was published in Advanced Healthcare Materials.

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

Engineering Professor Mina Hoorfar is using her ‘artificial nose’ technology to develop a roadside breathalyzer that can identify THC in breath molecules.

Engineering Professor Mina Hoorfar is using her ‘artificial nose’ technology to develop a roadside breathalyzer that can identify THC in breath molecules.

Five different technologies race to get on the market

It’s only a matter of time before breath detection devices, targeting drivers who are too high to drive, will be in the hands of enforcement agencies.

School of Engineering Professor Mina Hoorfar, who runs UBC Okanagan’s Advanced Thermo-Fluidic Lab, has been working on a device for several years using her ‘artificial nose’ technology—creating microfabrication appliances that are able to recognize hazardous molecules. The sensors can be fine-tuned to catch even the faintest amounts of targeted materials.

“Advances in microfabrication and nanotechnologies are enabling us to work at a smaller scale and with improved sensitivity,” explains Hoorfar. “We have responded to a need from regulators in North America to develop tools to accurately monitor tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and the artificial nose lends itself to this application.”

Hoorfar is collaborating with Cannabix Technologies to commercialize a marijuana breathalyzer device for law enforcement and workplaces.

In addition to her own technology, Hoorfar recently supervised a study of the five leading styles of THC breathalyzers that are either currently commercialized or under development. The review, led by doctoral student Hamed Mirzaei, looked at the prototypes and analyzed the science behind each one.

“Despite its large potential, breath analysis still has several technical difficulties,” says Mirzaei. “A healthy person can exhale a complex mixture of inorganic gases and many of these chemicals are from sources such as smoking, food consumption, bacterial microflora, work environments and medication.”

Diet, age, body mass index and gender can also influence the exact composition of a person’s breath, Mirzaei adds.

Other factors like temperature, humidity and operator training can influence the test results, meaning the science behind the tiny hand-held tool needs to be precise and reliable.

“As the size of sensors continue to decrease, and their sensitivity increases, we are getting closer to offering real-time, portable and accurate detection,” Hoorfar adds.

She says THC, in particular, is a tricky molecule to work with given that its concentrations in breath are quite low—estimated as up to 250 parts per trillion.

“This is a challenging detection limit that breath analyzers approaching the market must consider,” Hoorfar explains.

However, if THC is consumed during smoking, some particles will be deposited on lung tissues. These particles can be removed by exhalation and detected in breath—even three to six hours after someone has inhaled cannabis and when most behavioural and physiological effects associated with impairment have worn off.

“With legalization of cannabis consumption in Canada and many parts of USA, it is vital to create and improve technologies for public safety and awareness,” adds Hoorfar. “Breath analysis is not only the fastest technology available but it’s also a reliable and portable method to detect recent cannabis use and impairment. We just need to create the perfect device.”

Hoorfar says considering these platforms are relatively novel technologies to monitor THC in breath, they are not yet fully tested and understood. Meaning it may be a while before any are in everyday use.

“One day, in the not so far future, we will have portable devices that can tell us if we have a particular illness, or if there are dangerous fumes in our vicinity,” says Hoorfar. “And our team works hard every day to make that future a reality.”

The review, partially funded by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation Fund and a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, was published in the Journal of Breath Research.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, 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.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBCO doctoral student Saeed Mohammadiun says many urban drainage and stormwater systems are not designed well enough to handle extreme weather conditions.

UBCO doctoral student Saeed Mohammadiun says many urban drainage and stormwater systems are not designed well enough to handle extreme weather conditions.

New design approach needed to handle impact of climate change

During a typical Canadian winter, snow accumulation and melt—combined with sudden rainfalls—can lead to bottlenecks in storm drains that can cause flooding.

With that in mind, researchers at UBC’s Okanagan campus have been examining urban stormwater drainage systems, and they too have concerns about the resilience of many urban drainage systems.

A recently published paper from the School of Engineering says existing design methods for urban drainage systems aren’t going far enough to withstand possible catastrophic storms or even unpredictable failures during a moderate storm.

“As engineers, we run simulations of possible catastrophic events, and current systems often do not fare well,” says doctoral student Saeed Mohammadiun. “We are seeing sources of overloading such as structural failures, severe rainfalls or abrupt snowmelt stressing these systems.”

Add any extreme situation including quick snowmelt or a heavy and sudden rainfall, and Mohammadiun says many systems aren’t built to handle these worst-case scenarios. Mohammadiun has conducted several case studies of drainage systems in major urban areas around the world. He has determined many current urban standards designed for a 10-to-50 or even 100-year storm scenario are not meeting the increasing demands of climate change as well as intrinsic failure risk of networks’ elements.

“Conventional, reliability-based design methods only provide acceptable performance under expected conditions of loading,” he says. “Depending on the system, if something breaks down or there is a blockage, it can result in a failure and possible flooding.”

According to Mohammadiun, the resiliency of a system is not just dependent on the load it can handle, but also on its design and build. Many do not take into account the effects of climate change or unexpected weather conditions.

To establish an efficient resilient system, Mohammadiun says it is important to consider various sources of uncertainty such as rainfall characteristics, heavy snowfalls followed by a quick melt and different possible malfunction scenarios along with budget constraints, he says.

“Building or improving the resilience of urban stormwater drainage systems is crucial to ensuring these systems are protected against failure as much as possible, or they can quickly recover from a potential failure,” he adds. “This resilient capacity will provide urban drainage systems with the desired adaptability to a wide range of unexpected failures during their service life.”

The research points to several measures municipalities can proactively address the issue. Municipalities could build bypass lines and apply an appropriate combination of relief tunnels, storage units, and other distributed hydraulic structures in order to augment drainage system capacities in a resilient manner.

With the recent heavy snowfalls across Canada, Mohammadiun says the silver lining when it comes to drainage is that it takes snow time to melt whereas heavy rainfall puts an immediate stress on these systems. But from the engineering point of view, it is necessary to consider both acute and chronic conditions.

Not surprising, the research shows that urban drainage and stormwater systems that are built or modified to be more resilient, will handle extreme weather events more effectively and efficiently than conventional designs.

This research was recently published in Hydrological Sciences.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, 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.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBCO engineering instructor Ray Taheri watches as student prepares a bin before installing a retrofit that will make donation bins safer.

UBC Okanagan engineering students have solved the problem that took several lives and cost Canadian charities thousands of dollars of lost income.

This time last year, charities across Canada pulled their clothing donation bins off the street after a number of people had climbed inside the bins and died.

“When this last death happened in Vancouver, we decided to move all our bins off the street,” says Slav Gudelj with Big Brothers’ Vancouver office. “It did have a huge impact on our bottom line and is going to cost us about half a million dollars.”

The donation bin industry is a multi-million dollar enterprise across North America, raising funds for charitable organizations including the Salvation Army, Diabetes Canada, Big Brothers and Sisters, Goodwill and many others.

Gudelj, who is general manager of clothing donation operations for Big Brothers, says the organization now has about 180 boxes sitting in storage.

UBCO engineer instructor Ray Taheri has a few of those bins parked outside the engineering building. As part of his first-year design course, he tasked his students to come up with a way to modify the bins and make them safer.

Taheri also established a task force to look the bins and this spring received a $75,000 donation from Firstline Foundation to design and retrofit the existing bins. The students worked with bin manufacturing company Rangeview Fabrication to find reasonable, viable and economically realistic proposals.

At the same, other students—including a graduate student who is studying the social side of this issue and an mechanical engineering graduate student—looked at specifics of the individual deaths. Taheri says most deaths happened within few hundreds yards from a homeless shelter, and took place between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m.

“Most engineers know that modifying an existing design is often more difficult than starting from scratch. It was a perfect challenge for my students,” says Taheri.

The students came up with a number of solutions, including where they these bins should be located, and self-locking features that automatically come on at specific times. He also notes, if the bins are full, people take items outside the bins and then perhaps climb in to search for more items. If the bins had a sensor, altering the organization that they were almost full, this would prevent piles of donations left outside.

“We ended up with a number of different models and eventually settled on four prototypes—each a little bit different,” says Taheri. “Some will come with more bells and whistles, some will be a very basic model. But definitely they are a much safer than what we had in the past.”

Gudelj is back on the campus this week meeting with Taheri and the engineering students with the goal of finalizing plans to get the 180 bins back on the street as soon as possible. He credits UBCO’s engineers for ‘stepping up’ and not ignoring a chronic and dangerous issue.

Taheri says it has been a great learning curve for all his students, and staff and faculty who have put in hundreds of hours of volunteer time on this project.

“I can’t stress enough how proud I am of my students and my colleagues in the School of Engineering,” he says. “These are the type of people we have at UBC Okanagan. Our students

From left: Kevin Golovin, Abbas Milani, Feng Jiang and Jeremy Wulff and part of the COMFORTS network, a team of researchers from UBC, UVic and the University of Alberta.

From left: Kevin Golovin, Abbas Milani, Feng Jiang and Jeremy Wulff and part of the COMFORTS network, a team of researchers from UBC, UVic and the University of Alberta.

Cross-linking technology tightly binds where commercial glues cannot

With many of the products we use every day held together by adhesives, researchers from UBC’s Okanagan campus and the University of Victoria hope to make everything from protective clothing to medical implants and residential plumbing stronger and more corrosion resistant thanks to a newly-developed ‘hyper glue’ formula.

The team of chemists and composite materials researchers discovered a broadly applicable method of bonding plastics and synthetic fibres at the molecular level in a procedure called cross-linking. The cross-linking takes effect when the adhesive is exposed to heat or long-wave UV light making strong connections that are both impact-resistant and corrosion-resistant. Even with a minimal amount of cross-linking, the materials are tightly bonded.

“It turns out the adhesive is particularly effective in high-density polyethylene, which is an important plastic used in bottles, piping, geomembranes, plastic lumber and many other applications,” says Professor Abbas Milani, director of UBC’s Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute, and the lead researcher at the Okanagan node of the Composite Research Network. “In fact, commercially available glues didn’t work at all on these materials, making our discovery an impressive foundation for a wide range of important uses.”

UVic Organic Chemistry Professor Jeremy Wulff, whose team led the design of the new class of cross-linking materials, collaborated with the UBC Survive and Thrive Applied Research to explore how it performed in real-world applications.

“The UBC STAR team was able put the material through its paces and test its viability in some incredible applications, including ballistic protection for first responders,” says Wulff.

The discovery, he says, is already playing an important role in the Comfort-Optimized Materials for Operational Resilience, Thermal-transport and Survivability (COMFORTS) network, a team of researchers from UBC, UVic and the University of Alberta who are collaborating to create high-performance body armour.

“By using this cross-linking technology, we’re better able to strongly fuse together different layers of fabric types to create the next generation of clothing for extreme environments,” says Wulff. “At the same time, the cross-linker provides additional material strength to the fabric itself.”

Milani is quick to point out that an incredibly strong bonding agent is just the beginning of what it can do.

“Imagine paints that never peel or waterproof coatings that never need to be resealed,” says Milani. “We’re even starting to think about using it as a way to bond lots of different plastic types together, which is a major challenge in the recycling of plastics and their composites.”

“There is real potential to make some of our everyday items stronger and less prone to failure, which is what many chemists and composite materials engineers strive for.”

The research was published recently in the journal Science and was co-sponsored by Victoria-based company Epic Ventures and Mitacs Canada.

About the University of Victoria

UVic is one of Canada’s leading research-intensive universities, offering life-changing, hands-on learning experiences to more than 21,000 students on the edge of the spectacular BC coast. As a hub of transformational research, UVic faculty, staff and students make a critical difference on issues that matter to people, places and the planet. UVic consistently publishes a higher proportion of research based on international collaborations than any other university in North America, and our community and organizational partnerships play a key role in generating vital impact, from scientific and business breakthroughs to achievements in culture and creativity.

Find out more at: uvic.ca

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, 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.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Nobel Night 2016

Learn about the world-changing discoveries and achievements

What: Nobel Night panel discussion at UBC Okanagan
Who: University researchers discuss the 2019 Nobel Prizes
When: Tuesday, December 10, beginning at 7 p.m., refreshments to follow
Where:  Room COM 201, The Commons building, 3297 University Way, UBC Okanagan, Kelowna

Planets, poverty, peace and powerful batteries. The science and activism behind all of these are tied together this year by the lasting legacy of Alfred Nobel’s annual recognition for game-changes.

On December 10, thousands of kilometres away from the Okanagan, world leaders will gather in both Stockholm and Oslo to watch as the 2019 Nobel Prizes are presented. This year, 15 laureates will be honoured for discovering planets outside our solar system, working to reduce global poverty in all forms or trying to stop a war.

At UBC Okanagan’s Nobel Night -- a tradition upon its own -- university professors will explain why these awards and the recognition they garner are relevant in today’s changing world. UBC professors will discuss each award, the winners and why they matter.

The event, emceed by UBC Vice-Principal and Associate Vice-President, Research and Innovation Phil Barker, takes place in the Commons lecture theatre. Following the presentations, there will be an opportunity for audience questions and a social with refreshments.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information and to register visit: 2019nobelnight.eventbrite.ca

The Nobel Prize in Physics

Tim Robishaw, adjunct professor in the department of computer science, mathematics, physics and statistics will talk about James Peebles work on theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology. The award is jointly shared this year with Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz for their discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Jian Liu, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, will discuss the work of John B Goodenough, M Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino for the development of lithium-ion batteries.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Glen Foster, assistant professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, will highlight William G Kaelin Jr, Peter J Ratcliffe and Gregg L Semenza’s discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.

The Nobel Prize in Literature

Bryce Traister, professor of English and dean of the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, will talk about Peter Handke for his influential work with linguistic ingenuity.   

The Nobel Peace Prize

Professor of Political Science Helen Yanacopulos will speak to the accomplishments of Abiy Ahmed Ali for his efforts to achieve peace and resolve the border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The Economic Sciences

UBC Provost and Vice-President, Academic Ananya Mukherjee Reed will discuss the work of Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, 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.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca