Professor receives inaugural funding to make Ontario energy greener

green hand holding green leaf

Hany Farag, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, is among the first to receive funds from a new initiative to revamp Ontario’s energy system.

Hany Farag
Hany Farag

Green hydrogen has the potential to be a world-changing form of energy. It’s a sustainable, renewable and versatile energy carrier that can be used to support many industry sectors without releasing greenhouse gases. Among the most promising options for producing green hydrogen is electrolysis, which can split water into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity from a renewable energy source.

There is a significant challenge, however: the production, storage and transport of this resource is highly complex and costly.

The government of Ontario feels it’s a challenge worth taking on. It has created the Hydrogen Innovation Fund, a brand-new funding initiative administered by the Independent Electricity System Operator, which over the next three years will help invest more than $15 million to help integrate hydrogen into Ontario’s clean electricity system.

Farag is among the first group of researchers to successfully attain this funding. In collaboration with Alectra Utilities, Bruce County, York University Facilities Services and other industry partners, Farag will investigate ways to implement Green Hydrogen Plants (GHPs) across Ontario. “There is currently no infrastructure that can support the integration of electricity and hydrogen,” says Farag. “We want to facilitate the innovation of green hydrogen, and this project will help optimize the design of GHPs and their integration into Ontario’s power systems.”

By providing research-backed information and planning tools to support GHP implementation, Farag’s work will help inform action that contributes to Ontario’s target of net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050.

“Electricity is the core sector we focus on in this work, but these tools will eventually help decarbonize other industries as well,” he says.

LA&PS prof publishes three books in one month

colorful book shelf banner

A busy 2023 has led to Hassan Qudrat-Ullah, a professor in York University’s School of Administrative Studies in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS), publishing three new books in short succession this past November, covering topics as diverse as systems thinking, supply chain management and sustainable development.

Hassan Qudrat-Ullah
Hassan Qudrat-Ullah

The first of the three, Managing Complex Tasks with Systems Thinking (Springer, 2023), is about improving human decision making and performance in complex tasks. Using a systems thinking approach, it presents innovative and insightful solutions to various managerial issues in various domains, including agriculture, education, climate change, digital transformation, health care, supply chains and sustainability.

Qudrat-Ullah’s second recently published work, a co-edited volume with York University Research Fellow Syed Imran Ali called Advanced Technologies and the Management of Disruptive Supply Chains: The Post-COVID Era (Springer, 2023), explores the cost-effective and efficient supply chain management strategies required to achieve resilience in the post-COVID environment.

“The book follows a didactic approach through which it informs global researchers and practitioners to deal with the most significant insights on future supply chains with a more in-depth analysis of post-COVID opportunities and challenges,” said Qudrat-Ullah. “In particular, it provides an in-depth assessment of disruptive supply chain management in certain industrial contexts and explores various industry 4.0 and industry 5.0 technologies to achieve resilience.”

The final book of the bunch, Exploring the Dynamics of Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development in Africa: A Cross-Country and Interdisciplinary Approach (Springer, 2023), explores the potential of renewable energy sources to promote sustainable development in Africa, with a specific focus on Cameroon, Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa and Algeria. It delves into the challenges and opportunities presented by various renewable and clean energy technologies, including nuclear power, liquefied petroleum gas, bamboo biomass gasification and geothermal energy in addressing the energy needs of African nations. Additionally, it assesses the socio-economic and environmental impacts of renewable energy projects and evaluates their alignment with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

“The book’s interdisciplinary and cross-country approach, as well as its incorporation of innovative concepts like social innovation and bamboo-based development, makes it a unique resource,” said the author.

How one professor is engaging community to shrink York’s carbon footprint

York Professor Burkard Eberlein, from the Schulich School of Business, set out to reduce the University’s carbon emissions in his 2021-23 Provostial Fellowship.

Burkard Eberlein
Burkard Eberlein

Through the program, Fellows have traditionally engaged the community to take action on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Challenge – a key commitment of the University Academic Plan.

Eberlein’s project, “Advancing Carbon Neutrality at York: Reimagining Mobility,” took aim at reducing emissions from commuting and travel to studying, research and carrying out University business activities.

In 2022, Eberlein surveyed York community members about their travel and commuting routines, and this year he released a video highlighting the University’s current carbon footprint with a call to action suggesting how community members can help reduce it.

Here’s a look at the inspiration behind his work.

Q: What was the thinking behind creating this video and what did you hope to achieve?
A: I was looking for engaging and fun ways to communicate my findings to the wider community. I wanted this to be something we could all relate to and that would work as a call to action.

I worked with Alexandre Magnin, a francophone illustrator, who produced this animated video (available in English and French). Alex has a YouTube channel called “Sustainability illustrated” and he does excellent videos on sustainability that I have used before in my teaching. I provided the script and Alex produced this fantastic work to engage the community in thinking about ways they can help York achieve its net zero before 2040 target.

Q: What are some concrete ways community members can make an impact?
A: First thing, just be more mindful of the choices that you make when it comes to commuting and travel. Many of us have habits and routines that we can examine more closely. For example, if you’re driving to campus regularly, are there ways you can set up a car pool with colleagues or classmates? This would be a small but meaningful, positive change.

Bike share station on York University's Keele campus
A bike share station on York University’s Keele Campus.

Below are some concrete steps that people can take, along with advocating to get more community members involved:

  • Taking the bus or the subway can reduce emissions by around six (bus) and 30 (subway) times compared to driving alone. 
  • Walking and biking generate virtually no emissions and York is investing in bike share programs
  • Driving an electric car typically generates a third of the emissions compared to fossil fuel vehicles. 
  • When driving a car, the more people in it the more efficient it becomes. 
  • Make your business travel count and consider whether you can deliver a presentation remotely or think about conference travel sustainably. 

Q: What is your biggest takeaway or lesson learned from this project?
A: Change is hard and it requires both passion and perseverance. Begin with small steps and make sure to involve all of your fellow community members and partners. By coming together, we can show what is possible to right the future.


Eberlein is co-chair of the Transportation Working Group that will develop proposals in this area (e.g. York business travel policy), in the context of York’s new sustainability framework. He is also looking forward to sharing his comprehensive slide deck and report on how York can reduce carbon emissions from commuting and business travel when it is officially released.

Learn more about Eberlein’s work as a curricular champion to support the UN SDGs and his work to engage students in reducing York’s carbon footprint. 

Watch the video here:

Join discussion on nuclear energy’s role in a net-zero future

Late afternoon scene with view on riverbank with nuclear reactor Doel, Port of Antwerp, Belgium

As part of the Globe and Mail‘s East-West Energy Series of events, Professor Mark Winfield of York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) will present a talk titled “New Nuclear: Where does it fit in a net-zero nation?” on Friday, Oct. 20 from 1 to 3:30 p.m. The event is free and open to all, and can be attended either virtually or in person at the Globe and Mail Centre at 351 King St. E. in Toronto.

Mark Winfield
Mark Winfield

As urgency around climate action continues to build, Canada and other nations are becoming more attuned to the role of nuclear energy in curbing emissions. The push is on to transition away from coal and fossil fuels, while at the same time meet rising demand for energy in the era of electrification. Provinces such as Ontario are investing in new nuclear development and interest is growing in small modular reactors for industry and to shift remote communities off diesel.

Join the Globe and Mail and Winfield for a discussion on nuclear energy in view of net-zero emissions goals, electrification and the shift away from fossil fuels.

Winfield is a professor and the co-chair of the EUC’s Sustainable Energy Initiative and co-ordinator of the Joint Master of Environmental Studies/Juris Doctor program offered in conjunction with Osgoode Hall Law School. He has published articles, book chapters and reports on a wide range of climate change, environment, and energy law and policy topics. Winfield has acted as an advisor to the environmental commissioner of Ontario and federal commissioner for environment and development. He is a member of the Conseil d’administration (board of directors) of Transitions energetique Quebec, a Crown corporation established in 2017 to implement a low-carbon energy transition strategy for Quebec.

For more information about the event series and to register, visit globeandmailevents.com/newnuclearlive/speaker. Event registration will close at 9 a.m. on Oct. 20.

Inaugural BEST Bridge to Startup projects innovate

diverse group of people collaborating

BEST Bridge to Startup (BB2S), the four-month Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology (BEST) summer entrepreneurship experience that launched in the summer of 2023, has empowered students from York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering to build United Nations Sustainable Development Goal-friendly startups based around artificial intelligence (AI), accessibility, energy consumption and more.

BB2S was created to provide a crucial stepping stone for students transitioning from university to the professional world, imparting critical skills that go beyond the classroom, with undergraduate students able to turn their final-year capstone projects into ventures, or graduate students turning their research into a business.

Members of the BEST Bridge to Startup program
Members of the BEST Bridge to Startup program.

“Through our BB2S program, we aim to guide aspiring entrepreneurs on their path to self-discovery,” said Maedeh Sedaghat, BEST program manager. “The program offers a transformative experience that allows students to embrace a journey of curiosity and boundless learning, where success is the fruit of collective wisdom. The emotional rollercoaster that comes with this journey helps the students become more resilient, and they emerge with a personal and professionally rewarding entrepreneurial mindset that will enable them to make a positive impact in all their future endeavours.”

Aiming to bridge the gap between academic and practical application by offering participants hands-on practice instrumental to shaping future tech leaders, students were immersed in a professional setting where they could gain insights into the intricate workings of startup ecosystems, from ideation to market entry. Furthermore, as part of the program, each team worked with a Schulich School of Business master of business administration intern who helped the team develop business strategy, go-to-market strategies, product roadmaps and competitive reports.

The resulting inaugural projects are:

Chatbase
Created by computer science students Yasser Elsaid and Pegah Fallah, Chatbase is an AI chatbot builder that trains ChatGPT on an individual’s data and lets them add a chat widget to their website. 

Reefers
Created by mechanical engineering students Mhd Youssef Demashkieh and Jad Zeitoun, Reefers is an energy recovery system that uses the exhaust gases to create electricity to power the refrigeration system of refrigerated truck trailers.

Handifuel
Created by computer science alum Abbas Qassim and computer science student Solomon Ukwosah, Handifuel automates the fuelling process by building a robotic arm that will eliminate the need of mobility-challenged individuals to manually complete the process.

PoweRanger
Created by mechanical engineering alum Rizwan Bhatti, electrical engineering student Christopher Korfmann and software engineering student Mohammed Fulwala, PoweRanger is an autonomous, remote power line inspection robot that helps minimize production downtime and prevent unexpected power outages by quickly identifying faults, pinpointing their locations and understanding their causes.

MechTronX
Created by mechanical engineering students Mohammad Shamail, Muhammad Ali Toor and Eric Wong, MechTronX is a tech company that specializes in providing cost-effective, customized solutions that cater to the unique technical requirements of early-stage companies.

“BEST Bridge to Startup is a unique entrepreneurial opportunity that allows graduating students to experience the life of an entrepreneur by working exclusively on their startup for four months,” said Professor Andrew Maxwell, Bergeron Chair in Technology Entrepreneurship. “Our hope is that many of them turn their capstone projects into viable businesses supported by BESTLab.”

CFI funding supports professors developing sustainable future

hands holding a globe

A new engineering facility to develop innovative nanomaterials at York University is part of the latest round of research infrastructure projects to receive support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF), announced by the federal government earlier this week.

Reza Rizvi, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the Lassonde School of Engineering, will oversee the facility alongside co-principal investigators Stephanie Gora, an assistant professor of civil engineering, and Marina Freire-Gormaly, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

The JELF investment, totalling $138,585, will enable the York engineers to utilize cutting-edge scientific techniques and conduct the precise analysis needed to develop innovative nanomaterials that address energy and environmental challenges, like climate change, clean energy generation and storage, e-waste, and water treatment and monitoring. The project is titled “Infrastructure for Innovative Nanomaterials for Energy and Environment.”

“I am grateful for CFI’s investment in our applied research to create a more sustainable future for Canada and the world,” said Rizvi, who specializes in the scalable manufacturing of advanced materials. “Nanomaterials have a critical role to play in technological solutions that will help protect our planet.”

The facility will be housed in a shared lab space at Lassonde and will feature: a confocal Raman microscope (a Bruker Senterra II), a laser-based device that allows for microscopic examination; and an infrared spectrometer (Bruker Alpha II), an instrument used to measure light absorbed by a material sample. The facility will also be used to train highly-qualified personnel, including graduate students and postdoctoral Fellows.

“Every day, researchers dedicate their knowledge and skills to addressing issues that are important to Canadians, including improving the environment, health care and access to education. They contribute to a better future for all Canadians,” said Roseann O’Reilly Runte, president and CEO of CFI. “At the Canada Foundation for Innovation, we are proud to support their efforts with well-designed labs and necessary equipment placed in the communities and environments where they will be the most effectively employed.”

The nanotechnologies developed by Rizvi, Gora, Freire-Gormaly and their teams will advance several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including: good health and well-being (SDG 3); clean water and sanitation (SDG 6); affordable and clean energy (SDG 7); industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9); responsible consumption and production (SDG 12); and climate action (SDG 13).

Other JELF-funded projects at York

Three other York researchers also received funding: Shooka Karimpour, an assistant professor of civil engineering at Lassonde, for “Infrastructure for High-Definition Microplatic Detection (HD-MPD) and Identity Analysis” ($126,254); and Adeyemi Oludapo Olusola and Joshua Thienpoint, assistant professors in the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change, for “Landscapes in Transition: Environmental Sensitivities Due to Climate Change” ($198,161).

The York-led projects are among 396 research infrastructure projects to receive more than $113 million at 56 universities across Canada.

The CFI funding is part of a wave of recent investments made by the Government of Canada, supporting 4,700 researchers and research projects with more than $960 million in grants, scholarships and programs. “Through this funding, the Government of Canada is investing in the next generation of researchers and inspiring them to continue to think outside the box and tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow,” said François-Philippe Champagne, minister of innovation, science and industry.

For the full CFI announcement, visit innovation.ca/news/jelf-august-2023.

Dahdaleh Institute summer interns to showcase global health research

Global health

The Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research (DIGHR) invites York University community members to its fifth Summer Global Health Intern Symposium on Aug. 30.

DIGHR poster

Throughout the summer term, Dahdaleh global health interns have been undertaking exciting research projects that address critical global health challenges.

On Aug. 30, eight interns will reflect on their internship and deliver a short presentation about the experience, knowledge and skills they have gained, and will share progress on their research projects, including:

DIGHR research
Global health interns
  • experiential-based simulation learning;
  • effects of resource insecurity on health outcomes;
  • mental and emotional health and wellness;
  • post-pandemic public health reforms; and
  • impact of human behaviour on antimicrobial resistance.

To learn more about this event, or to register to attend, visit yorku.ca/dighr/events/5th-summer-global-health-intern-symposium.

Lunch will be provided. All are welcome to attend.

The Dahdaleh Institute is currently hiring the next cohort of global health interns for the upcoming Fall/Winter 2023-24 academic year. All interested applicants are encouraged to visit the DIGHR website to learn more.

Lassonde professors working toward healthier planet

View of the Earth from space

Researchers from across Lassonde departments are demonstrating collective research efforts aimed towards creating a healthier planet across areas including smart materials, renewable energy, climate change, and water and sustainability.

Kamelia Atefi-Monfared, assistant professor – Department of Civil Engineering

Focusing on geomechanics, Atefi-Monfared is working to improve understanding of coupled processes in porous media, such as soils and geological reservoirs, including geothermal reservoirs. Her research establishes fundamental knowledge used to tackle global challenges involving energy, water and climate change through various projects.

Kamelia Atefi-Monfared

Specifically, Atefi-Monfared is applying her research to the advanced development and design of models for environmentally friendly ground improvement techniques, resilient infrastructure and sustainable production/storage of energy and water. One of her current projects involves the development of a novel framework to stabilize mine tailings and gravel roads using microbial-induced carbonate precipitation (MICP) – an eco-friendly technique for ground improvement that uses bacteria to produce bio-cement.

This work helps solve the problem of chemical and cement-based grouting materials that emit carbon dioxide and contaminate soil and groundwater.

Paul O’Brien, associate professor – Department of Mechanical Engineering

O’Brien leads research on the design, fabrication and application of materials that control, absorb and harvest electromagnetic radiation. These materials are used to develop and advance sustainable technologies, such as solar energy storage systems for the electrification of buildings.

Paul O’Brien

Through the development and improvement of sustainable technologies, O’Brien aims to contribute to the decarbonization of the building sector, which accounts for one-third of global energy consumption and almost 40 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions. Through assessment and evaluation, his work also explores how energy systems and processes can be used to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

O’Brien’s research team is currently working on numerous projects, including the development of optical cavities to improve the performance of thermophotovoltaic systems, which convert radiant energy from heat sources to electric power.

Hany E. F. Farag, associate professor – Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

As a visionary leader in smart and sustainable energy, Farag has worked on countless projects that address Canada’s urgent need for clean and sustainable energy and transportation systems. Specifically, Farag develops modelling and control techniques to support the integration of low-carbon solutions into energy and transportation sectors.

Hany E. F. Farag

These low-carbon solutions include the production of renewable hydrogen, electrification of transportation and improvement of distributed energy resource (DER) capacity.

In a notable partnership with Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), Alectra inc., Metrolinx and the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CURTIC), Farag was the first researcher to investigate the integration of electrified bus fleets into power grids in Canada, resulting in research findings that influenced company policies and provided planning tools.

Mark Gordon, associate professor – Department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering

Gordon focuses his research on understanding what happens to pollutants after they are released into the atmosphere from different emission sources. This research produces information about the activity of pollutants, which can be used in climate and air quality models to improve the representation of real-world environments.

Mark Gordon

These models help stakeholder companies make informed decisions about the environment, such as implementing design strategies to reduce air pollution from a newly built highway.

Examples of Gordon’s research include the investigation and measurement of greenhouse gas emissions from traffic in urban areas, as well as the deposition rate of pollutants from oil sands and production facilities to the Boreal Forest in Northern Alberta.

York’s Ecological Footprint Initiative to host national footprint, biocapacity data launch

Glass planet in the sunshine

Canada’s ecological footprint declined during COVID-19, but is it back to pre-pandemic levels? York University’s Ecological Footprint Initiative (EFI) will release data showing changes up to 2022.

What is the size of Canada’s ecological footprint, and that of the rest of the world, and how did that change during the global pandemic?

Viewers from across the University community and beyond are invited to join the online launch Thursday, April 20, from 1 to 2 p.m, when researchers at York will release the Ecological Footprint of Canada, and 200 other countries, from 1961 to 2022.

Popularized roughly 30 years ago, the term “ecological footprint” was a way of measuring humanity’s appropriation of Earth’s carrying capacity. Since then, it has evolved to include a comprehensive system of national and international accounts. These accounts provide valuable insights about humanity’s use of lands and waters. The accounts help countries and communities to engage with sustainability and to make informed decisions about the future.

In practice, ecological footprints track the area of land and water used to grow food and renewable materials, plus the area occupied by settlements and infrastructure, as well as the area of forests needed to soak up carbon emissions.

In the last few years, York has become a global hub for producing ecological footprint accounts, and for researching ways to make them even more comprehensive.

Eric Miller
Eric Miller

“Canada reports on GDP with a lag of just a few months, yet its environmental data lags by years. We filled in gaps and lags to make it easier to assess environmental performance in Canada and around the world,” says EFI Director Eric Miller, from the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change. “Time is ticking. Each year of action or inaction matters for the future of humanity. For this reason, our data reports on Ecological Footprint up to the end of 2022.”

Since the first Earth Day in 1970, humanity’s ecological footprint has been in overshoot of the planet’s capacity to sustain it. Since 1961 humanity’s footprint has tripled.

“For each country we calculate the footprint of what was produced and what was consumed. The difference comes from the footprint embodied within the goods imported to the country, and the footprint of the goods exported by the country,” says Miller.

“Canada, for example, produces more wood products than it consumes, with the difference as exports,” he adds. “We generate this data for all countries, to reveal the ecological dimensions of global supply chains and the extent to which countries effectively offload their ecological requirements onto others.”

Miller says that to continue advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals, University researchers depend on data that can be scaled nationally, as well as locally and globally – EFI provides this crucial data so that it remains timely, scalable and accessible.

This is the fifth anniversary of York producing data about ecological footprint and biocapacity, and supplying that data on an open-source basis to researchers around the world.

This year’s data will also include a more robust look at the footprint of fish harvests, including unreported catch. “In Canada, fish harvests were significantly underreported up to the point of the cod collapse. By including underreports, we can help researchers see these trends much more easily,” says Katie Kish, EFI research associate.

Mike Layton
Mike Layton

York’s new Chief Sustainability Officer Mike Layton will kick off the event, followed by updates to the 2023 accounts from Miller, along with EFI data analysts Sila Basturk Agiroglu and Peri Dworatzek.

Kish will talk about research futures and the growing international research network for the global footprint family, with a direct focus on better public-facing data and data for communities.

Mathis Wackernagel, co-founder and president of the Global Footprint Network, will discuss the state of the footprint and a look towards the future. One example he will draw on is the Kunming/Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework with 23 targets agreed upon at the 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. These targets include the ecological footprint as a measurement tool.

Learn more at News @ York.

Professor receives fellowship at Chemical Institute of Canada

Wind turbines at twilight

York University Professor and Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Sustainable Organomain Group Materials, Thomas Baumgartner, has been selected as a 2023 Fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada (CIC), an honour that recognizes the merits of members who have made outstanding contributions in chemistry.

Thomas Baumgartner
Thomas Baumgartner

Baumgartner, who joined York’s Department of Chemistry in 2017, has pursued ongoing research focused on the design of novel materials that can be used to lower humanity’s carbon footprint and will provide knowledge crucial to the development of essential next-generation technologies for a sustainable future.

His program targets several energy-focused topics by addressing the efficient and sustainable use, conversion, and/or storage of energy via advanced synthesis in a bottom-up approach. For example, in 2020 he published research highlighting how Lithium-powered batteries might be made more environmentally friendly. His research also looks at the design of strongly luminescent species and their possible application as biomarkers and sensors.

Baumgartner has received several international awards, and lectureships, including a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science fellowship and a Bessel Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany.

His latest recognition, the CIC Fellowship, is a senior class of membership that recognizes the merits of CIC members who have made substantial contributions across multiple areas, such as:

  • science, engineering and technology;
  • CIC, Canadian Society of Chemistry (CSC), Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering (CSCE) and Canadian Society for Chemical Technology activities;
  • management of science, engineering or technology; and
  • teaching, mentorship, and public Awareness

New Fellows are announced and certificates are presented at an awards ceremony held in conjunction with the annual conference of the CSC or CSCE.