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McMaster University projects awarded $3.3 million to address auto industry, nuclear safety

April 18, 2016

Two pioneering research projects will bring together 17 McMaster researchers, a dozen industry partners and more than 80 students thanks to $3.3M in research funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council's CREATE program.

The CREATE (Collaborative Research and Training Experience) program trains the next generation of researchers to tackle Canada's most pressing scientific challenges.

Wael El-Dakhakhni is leading a research team whose unique set of multidisciplinary expertise will ensure the performance of nuclear power plant reactor safety systems and minimize the environmental risk of spent nuclear fuel under natural hazard.

"Japan is still struggling with the cascading economic and environmental impacts five years after a powerful earthquake and tsunami caused the meltdown of the nuclear reactors at Fukushima," says El-Dakhakhni, professor in the department of civil engineering and founding director of the McMaster Institute for Multi-hazard Systemic Risk Studies.

"Canada relies on nuclear power as a major component of its overall energy supply mix, but there's a critical expertise gap that needs to be addressed to guarantee our nuclear infrastructure systems are resilient - that is, remain fully operational, or recover rapidly and safely, following a natural disaster," El-Dakhakhni explains.

The Canadian Nuclear Energy Infrastructure Resilience under Seismic Systemic Risk (CaNRisk) program, directed by El-Dakhakhni, combines the collective research talents of some of the world's leading experts in nuclear safety (John Luxat and Shinya Nagasaki from engineering physics) with the civil engineering expertise of Pei Jun Guo (soil-structure interaction), DimitriosKonstantinidis and Mike Tait (structural and seismic control), Tracy Becker and LydellWiebe (earthquake engineering) and Sarah Dickson (water systems safety).

CaNRisk was awarded $1.65M over five years, and will provide 44 students the opportunity to participate in hands-on internships with some of Canada's key nuclear stakeholders, including Amec Foster Wheeler Nuclear Canada, Bruce Power, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Hatch Ltd., Kinectrics Inc., and Ontario Power Generation. CaNRisk also includes partners from Western University with expertise in uncertainty analysis and electrical engineering.

A second project, the CREATE Program in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Powertrain Design and Development, involves researchers from McMaster and the University of Windsor, along with industry partners Ford Canada, D&V Electronics, AVL Test Systems and Cadex Electronics.

Led by Saeid Habibi, professor of mechanical engineering and NSERC/Ford Chair in Hybrid Technologies, the team will develop the talent for Canada's automotive industry to address the challenges associated with new electric energy storage and electric propulsion technologies.

"Canada's automotive sector is not only rebounding, it's growing rapidly," says Habibi. "But in order to capitalize on this momentum and to remain competitive, it's critical that the sector has access to a highly qualified workforce with training in advanced electric and hybrid power train technologies. This CREATE funding ensures we're producing well-rounded graduates with the requisite technical and professional skills that our industry partners require."

Students will benefit from working with researchers from a number of departments: Mo Elbestawi, Jim Cotton, Fengjun Yan, and Samir Ziada (mechanical engineering); Ali Emadi, and Nigel Schofield (electrical and computer engineering); and Gillian Goward (chemistry & chemical biology).

"We are delighted that McMaster was awarded funding for two CREATE projects", says Allison Sekuler, interim vice-president, research, noting that only 13 projects were awarded across the country.

"Once again McMaster is punching well above our weight, demonstrating the exceptional quality and innovation of our researchers. These projects will have very real and direct impacts on enhancing our economy and environment, and also develop the next generation of talent to address some of Canada's and the world's most pressing issues."

McMaster University

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