Uniting some of Ontario’s greatest minds to fuel sustainable, resilient communities locally and around the world – this is the goal of the recently announced Environmental and Related Technologies Hub (EaRTH District), a collaborative research consortium between Trent University, Centennial College, University of Toronto Scarborough, Ontario Tech University, and Durham College.
“As one of Canada’s most sought-after locations for environmental research and innovation, Trent University is an integral partner in the EaRTH District and Research Consortium,” says Dr. Leo Groarke, president and vice-chancellor of Trent University. “With 11 nature areas, an experimental farm and rooftop gardens, plus 15 environmental degrees, as well as renowned researchers, labs, facilities and Cleantech Commons – Trent is home to the environmental leaders of today and tomorrow.”
The consortium seeks to work with the public and private sectors, as well as Indigenous communities, and leverages the unique expertise and facilities of partner institutions. EaRTH envisions shared research facilities, joint interdisciplinary research projects, and collaborations on curriculum, teaching and learning. This ties in well with the goals of Cleantech Commons at Trent University, which aims to become Canada’s premier destination for collaborative clean, green, low- and zero-carbon, and sustainable technology research, innovation, commercialization and entrepreneurship. Cleantech Commons will be instrumental as a location for industry to connect with students, faculty, researchers and startups.
Leveraging Trent’s leadership in interdisciplinary research
“The challenges relating to the sustainability of our planet are complex and require immediate action,” says Dr. Cathy Bruce, vice-president of Research and Innovation at Trent. “Trent’s interdisciplinary approach to research and our strengths in environmental science, forensics, Indigenous studies, the social sciences and humanities will contribute to impactful global health solutions championed through the EaRTH District.”
An example of this interdisciplinary approach is a new jointly-funded project titled Development of Improved Regenerative Braking Systems and New Batteries for Hybrid Hydraulic and Electric Heavy Vehicles. Trent mathematician, Dr. Kenzu Abdella, has partnered with EaRTH experts in automotive engineering, chemistry and transportation to generate research on a hydraulic-based regenerative braking system for hybrid hydraulic heavy vehicles (HHHVs), as well as integrated lithium-ion batteries for hybrid electric heavy vehicles (HEHVs). These new technologies are expected to result in improved fuel economy of up to 70% and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by up to 40% for urban driving in HHHVs and HEHVs.
Cultivating change through innovative projects
Trent’s Dr. Sanela Martic, assistant professor of Forensic Science, is leading the Electro-EaRTH project, examining the use of smart materials and microbes towards electrocatalytic and bioelectrosynthetic avenues to alternative fuels and value-added chemicals. Together with researchers from Ontario Tech, University of Toronto Scarborough and Centennial College, Professor Martic will be developing alternative technologies and strategies for electrochemical and microbial conversion of biomass-derived intermediates to value-added products, which will be highly beneficial to the biorefinery sector and other industrial partners.
In a third EaRTH consortium project, Dr. Karen Thompson of the Trent School of the Environment, will be involved in a Greenhouse Project: Growing change through energy, education and equity: off-grid food production on-campus. Ensuring sustainable food and energy systems is at the core of this project, which also presents students, researchers and community stakeholders with the opportunity to strengthen local food systems through clean technology applications and to embrace new socio-economic, cultural and educational practices.
In addition to Trent University’s involvement in the first three EaRTH research projects, Trent will also play a central role in supporting Indigenous research and community partnerships as well as collaborating in curriculum development projects.