Dr. Kristin (Kris) Poduska, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography, and Dr. Ralf Bachmayer, an associate professor in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, will each receive $25,000 as the 2009 recipients of the Petro-Canada Young Innovator Award.
Dr. Poduska’s research involves determining how the synthesizing of materials can affect their properties. She was singled out for this award in particular because of her work on properties of biological materials, or materials that can, in principle, go into a body.
“For example, if you have a broken bone, you want to have that bone heal as rapidly as possible,” she explained. “We don’t make a new bone, but what we are trying to do is make something that would go in the body to help trigger the bone to grow.
“Basically we want to put a coating on the surface of the bone – a composite mixture of calcium phosphate (the hard part of bone) and collagen (the protein part) that would encourage cells to grow on it. It’s a great idea in principle. But the next step is to start trying to grow cells on our coatings and that’s what this award will allow us to start doing.”
“We can put the coating on metals very easily, but we’ve also made a scaffold, a flexible material, that we can put on any kind of substrate we want,” she added. “That gives us more flexibility in cases where there isn’t an implant. We want to see if the scaffold can be used on its own in and see if that improves the growth.”
Dr. Bachmayer’s research on underwater gliders earned him this award. In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of autonomous underwater gliders in applications in both the coastal and the deep ocean. Their unique capabilities, their ability to stay at sea unattended for weeks and months provides insight into processes and events that were previously unable to see in this detail.
“Gliders move through the water column in a saw-tooth pattern using fixed wings. They have the ability to change weight from heavier to lighter than the surrounding water. This saw-tooth pattern works well for profiling the vertical ocean water structure. However, for other tasks that require controlled horizontal flight, such as continuous measurement of ice-thickness, the gliders’ capabilities are severely limited at present,” explained Dr. Bachmayer.
Dr. Bachmayer’s research will develop an active propulsion module for a hybrid underwater glider that can be added to existing gliders. The propulsion module will not serve as the main propulsor, but will only be used intermittently to enable level flight or to overcome areas of high currents that would otherwise present an insurmountable obstacle to the slow-moving gliders. Once the device is turned off it should not increase the overall drag of the system and therefore reduce the range of the glider.
“Besides other advantages the addition of horizontal flight will enable the glider not only to map ice from below but also search for a lead in partially ice-covered regions. Since gliders rely on access to the free surface for communication and navigation, the ability to detect and surface in an ice opening is crucial for this kind of operations,” added Dr. Bachmayer.
The Petro-Canada Young Innovator Awards Program was created to recognize and help support the work of outstanding young faculty researcher at Canadian universities, colleges and major research institutes, particularly those whose research has the potential to be of significance to society at large.
Established at more than 20 institutes across Canada, the award offers financial support and public acknowledgement to help promising researchers continue their careers in Canada.