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UOIT physics professor receives $380,000 for fuel cell research from Toyota

Two-year research project will advance hydrogen fuel cell technologies for the automotive sector

Building on its reputation for innovative research in the automotive sector, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) announced today a two-year research contract with Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc. (TEMA) valued at $380,000. The funds will be used to further investigate hydrogen fuel cells, which are poised to replace traditional combustion engines in the quest to become a more sustainable and less fossil fuel dependent society, and develop new insights and methods aimed at improving their efficiency and durability.

Dr. Peter Berg, an assistant professor with the Faculty of Science at UOIT, will be leading a Canadian research team that also includes a post-doctoral fellow and a Master of Science in Modelling and Computational Science student at UOIT, along with a faculty member and a PhD student from the University of Ottawa. They will work to advance fuel cells through the modelling and simulation of mass and charge transport in hydrogen (PEM) fuel cells, with a primary focus on the functionality of polymer electrolyte membranes. The project will also observe the chemical reactions and the flow and distribution of oxygen and water as they relate to physical and chemical phenomena. The Canadian team will work collaboratively with members of the newly formed Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA), a division of TEMA, in the United States as well as researchers in Japan.

"This area of research has received major attention only during the past 10 years and I am honoured to be part of this novel research project," said Dr. Berg. "Fuel cells have immense potential to revolutionize automotive drive trains by utilizing hydrogen as an alternative fuel source and providing electricity to electric motors. It is pivotal to gain a comprehensive understanding of this electrochemical device in order to move towards the commercialization stage."

The findings stemming from this work have the potential to complement other innovative fuel cell research in science, as well as hydrogen research projects within the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, and the new General Motors of Canada Automotive Centre of Excellence (ACE). Scheduled to open in Fall 2009, ACE will be the hub of a broader Automotive Innovation Network linking automotive engineers and scientists, suppliers and Canadian universities. The centre will house state-of-the-art research and development tools in the areas of vehicle dynamics, noise and vibration, a thermal climatic wind tunnel, structural durability testing and the ability to accommodate future automotive fuels such as hydrogen.

The project is also strongly aligned with UOIT's research commitment to sustainable energy and further supports Durham Region's growing reputation as the energy capital of Ontario.

"UOIT's partnership with Toyota further demonstrates its increasing national reputation for research that will help redefine the Canadian automobile manufacturing industry," said Dr. William Smith, dean of the Faculty of Science. "It is also a clear indication of our commitment to working with industry partners and continuing to expose our students to innovative projects that are led by some of the globe's foremost researchers."

In the past five years, UOIT has attracted more than $18.3 million in research funding from many sources, including provincial and federal grants and contracts, industry contracts and grants from research foundations. These are some of the key reasons why UOIT has been named one of Canada's Top 50 research universities.

TEMA is responsible for Toyota's North American engineering design, advanced research and development, and growing manufacturing activities in Canada, the United States and Mexico.

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