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  • richardmitnick 10:35 am on May 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , “We think it’s promising that we could one day go 10 times smaller” says Diller., Microrobotics, Smaller and more complex microrobots are needed for future medical applications such as targeted drug delivery; assisted fertilization; or biopsies., The researchers’ optimized approach opens the doors for developing even smaller and more complex microrobots than the current millimetre-size., University of Toronto   

    From University of Toronto: “No assembly required: U of T researchers automate microrobotic designs” 

    U Toronto Bloc

    From University of Toronto

    April 24, 2019
    Liz Do

    1
    Tianqi Xu holds up a microrobot that was fabricated using their automated system (photo by Liz Do)

    Assembling a microrobot used to require a pair of needle-nosed tweezers, a microscope, steady hands and at least eight hours. But now researchers at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering have developed a method that requires only a 3D printer and 20 minutes.

    In the lab of Eric Diller, an assistant professor in the department of mechanical and industrial engineering, researchers create magnetized microrobots – the size of the head of a pin – that can travel through fluid-filled vessels and organs within the human body. Diller and his team control the motion of these microrobots wirelessly using magnetic fields.

    Each microrobot is built by precisely arranging microscopic sections of magnetic needles atop a flat, flexible material. Once deployed, the researchers apply magnetic fields to induce microrobots to travel with worm-like motion through fluid channels, or close its tiny mechanical “jaws” to take a tissue sample.

    “These robots are quite difficult and labour-intensive to fabricate because the process requires precision,” says Tianqi Xu, a master’s candidate in engineering. “Also because of the need for manual assembly, it’s more difficult to make these robots smaller, which is a major goal of our research.”

    That is why Xu and his labmates developed an automated approach that significantly cuts down on design and development time, and expands the types of microrobots they can manufacture. Their findings were published today in Science Robotics.

    Smaller and more complex microrobots are needed for future medical applications, such as targeted drug delivery, assisted fertilization or biopsies.

    “If we were taking samples in the urinary tract or within fluid cavities of the brain – we envision that an optimized technique would be instrumental in scaling down surgical robotic tools,” says Diller.

    To demonstrate the capabilities of their new technique, the researchers devised more than 20 different robotic shapes, which were then programmed into a 3D printer. The printer then builds and solidifies the design, orienting the magnetically patterned particles as part of the process.

    “Previously, we would prepare one shape and manually design it, spend weeks planning it, before we could fabricate it. And that’s just one shape,” says Diller. “Then when we build it, we would inevitably discover specific quirks – for example, we might have to tweak it to be a little bigger or thinner to make it work.”

    “Now we can program the shapes and click print,” adds Xu. “We can iterate, design and refine it easily. We have the power to really explore new designs now.”

    The researchers’ optimized approach opens the doors for developing even smaller and more complex microrobots than the current millimetre-size.

    “We think it’s promising that we could one day go 10 times smaller,” says Diller.

    Diller’s lab plans to use the automated process to explore more sophisticated and complicated shapes of microrobots.

    “As a robotics research community, there’s a need to explore this space of tiny medical robots,” adds Diller. “Being able to optimize designs is a really critical aspect of what the field needs.”

    The research was supported by Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Founded in 1827, the University of Toronto has evolved into Canada’s leading institution of learning, discovery and knowledge creation. We are proud to be one of the world’s top research-intensive universities, driven to invent and innovate.

    Our students have the opportunity to learn from and work with preeminent thought leaders through our multidisciplinary network of teaching and research faculty, alumni and partners.

    The ideas, innovations and actions of more than 560,000 graduates continue to have a positive impact on the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:15 am on May 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "U of T research looks at how to take the ‘petro’ out of the petrochemicals industry", , , , , Phil De Luna, Renewable electrosynthesis, University of Toronto   

    From University of Toronto: “U of T research looks at how to take the ‘petro’ out of the petrochemicals industry” Phil De Luna 

    U Toronto Bloc

    From University of Toronto

    1
    Phil De Luna is the lead author of an article in Science that analyzes how green electricity and carbon capture could displace fossil fuels in the production of everything from fertilizer to textiles (photo by Tyler Irving)

    April 30, 2019
    Tyler Irving

    Fossil fuels are the backbone of the global petrochemicals industry, which provides the world’s growing population with fuels, plastics, clothing, fertilizers and more. A new research paper, published last week in Science, charts a course for how an alternative technology – renewable electrosynthesis – could usher in a more sustainable chemical industry and ultimately enable us to leave much more oil and gas in the ground.

    Phil De Luna, a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, is the paper’s lead author. His research involved designing and testing catalysts for electrosynthesis, and last November he was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list of innovators in the category of Energy. He and his supervisor, Professor Ted Sargent, collaborated on the paper with an international team of researchers from Stanford University and TOTAL American Services, Inc.

    Writer Tyler Irving sat down with De Luna to learn more about how renewable electrosynthesis could take the “petro” out of petrochemicals.

    Can you describe the challenge you’re trying to solve?

    Our society is addicted to fossil fuels – they’re in everything from the plastics in your phone to the synthetic fibres in your clothes. A growing world population and rising standards of living are driving demand higher every year.

    Changing the system requires a massive global transformation. In some areas, we have alternatives – for example, electric vehicles can replace internal combustion engines. Renewable electrosynthesis could do something similar for the petrochemical industry.

    What is renewable electrosynthesis?

    Think about what the petrochemical industry does: It takes heavy, long-chain carbon molecules and uses high heat and pressure to break them down into basic chemical building blocks. Then, those building blocks get reassembled into plastics, fertilizers, fibres, etc.

    Imagine that instead of using fossil fuels, you could use CO2 from the air. And instead of doing the reactions at high temperatures and pressures, you could make the chemical building blocks at room temperature using innovative catalysts and electricity from renewable sources, such as solar or hydro power. That’s renewable electrosynthesis.

    Once we do that initial transformation, the chemical building blocks fit into our existing infrastructure, so there is no change in the quality of the products. If you do it right, the overall process is carbon neutral or even carbon negative if powered completely by renewable energy.

    Plants also take CO2 from the air and make it into materials such as wood, paper and cotton. What is the advantage of electrosynthesis?

    The advantages are speed and throughput. Plants are great at turning CO2 into materials, but they also use their energy for things like metabolism and reproduction, so they aren’t very efficient. It can take 10 to 15 years to grow a tonne of usable wood. Electrosynthesis would be like putting the CO2 capture and conversion power of 50,000 trees into a box the size of a refrigerator.

    Why don’t we do this today?

    It comes down to cost. You need to prove that the cost to make a chemical building block via electrosynthesis is on par with the cost of producing it the conventional way.

    Right now there are some limited applications. For example, most of the hydrogen used to upgrade heavy oil comes from natural gas, but about four per cent is now produced by electrolysis – that is, using electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. In the future, we could do something similar for carbon-based building blocks.

    What did your analysis find?

    We determined that there are two main factors: The first is the cost of electricity itself, and the second is the electrical-to-chemical conversion efficiency.

    In order to be competitive with conventional methods, electricity needs to cost less than four cents per kilowatt-hour, and the electrical-to-chemical conversion efficiency needs to be 60 per cent or greater.

    How close are we?

    There are some places in the world where renewable energy from solar can cost as little as two or three cents per kilowatt-hour. Even in a place like Quebec, which has abundant hydro power, there are times of the year where electricity is sold at negative prices, because there is no way to store it. So, from an economic potential perspective, I think we’re getting close in a number of important jurisdictions.

    Designing catalysts that can raise the electrical-to-chemical conversion efficiency is harder, and it’s what I spent my thesis doing. For ethylene, the best I’ve seen is about 35 per cent efficiency, but for some other building blocks, such as carbon monoxide, we’re approaching 50 per cent.

    Of course, all this has been done in labs – it’s a lot harder to scale that up to a plant that can make kilotonnes per day. But I think there are some applications out there that show promise.

    Can you give an example of what renewable electrosynthesis would look like?

    Let’s take ethylene, which is by volume the world’s most-produced petrochemical. You could in theory make ethylene using CO2 from the air – or from an exhaust pipe – using renewable electricity and the right catalyst. You could sell the ethylene to a plastic manufacturer, who would make it into plastic bags or lawn chairs or whatever.

    At the end of its life, you could incinerate this plastic – or any other carbon-intensive form of waste – capture the CO2, and start the process all over again. In other words, you’ve closed the carbon loop and eliminated the need for fossil fuels.

    What do you think the focus of future research should be?

    I’ve actually just taken a position as the program director of the clean energy materials challenge program at the National Research Council of Canada. I am building a $21 million collaborative research program, so this is something I think about a lot.

    We’re currently targeting parts of the existing petrochemical supply chain that could easily be converted to electrosynthesis. There is the example I mentioned above, which is the production of hydrogen for oil and gas upgrading using electrolysis.

    Another good building block to target would be carbon monoxide, which today is primarily produced from burning coal. We know how to make it via electrosynthesis, so if we could get the efficiency up, that would be a drop-in solution.

    How does renewable electrosynthesis fit into the large landscape of strategies to reduce emissions and combat climate change?

    I’ve always said that there’s no silver bullet. Instead, I think what we need is what I call a “silver buckshot” approach. We need recycled building materials, we need more efficient LEDs for lighting, we need better solar cells and better batteries.

    But even if emissions from the electricity grid and the transportation network dropped to zero tomorrow, it wouldn’t do anything to help the petrochemical industry that supplies so many of the products we use every day. If we can start by electrifying portions of the supply chain, that’s the first step to building an alternative system.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Founded in 1827, the University of Toronto has evolved into Canada’s leading institution of learning, discovery and knowledge creation. We are proud to be one of the world’s top research-intensive universities, driven to invent and innovate.

    Our students have the opportunity to learn from and work with preeminent thought leaders through our multidisciplinary network of teaching and research faculty, alumni and partners.

    The ideas, innovations and actions of more than 560,000 graduates continue to have a positive impact on the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:50 am on March 27, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Landmark $100-million gift to the University of Toronto from Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman will power Canadian innovation and help researchers explore the intersection of technology and society, A catalyst for innovation, Amplifying U of T’s position in Canada and the world, The Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society, University of Toronto   

    From University of Toronto: “Landmark $100-million gift to the University of Toronto from Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman will power Canadian innovation and help researchers explore the intersection of technology and society” 

    U Toronto Bloc

    From University of Toronto

    1
    The soon-to-be-built Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre will accelerate innovation in Toronto and Canada by creating the country’s largest university-based innovation node (rendering by WEISS/MANFREDI)

    The new Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre will turbocharge the next wave of Canadian innovation, advancing how AI, biomedicine and other disruptive technologies can enrich lives.

    March 25, 2019

    Thanks to an historic gift to the University of Toronto from Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman, the soon-to-be built Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre will accelerate innovation in Toronto and Canada by creating the country’s largest university-based innovation node. The $100-million investment is the largest donation in U of T’s history and the largest gift ever to the Canadian innovation sector.

    The gift will help construct a 750,000-square-foot complex designed to anchor U of T’s unique cluster of world-leading artificial intelligence scientists and biomedical experts, its world-class entrepreneurship network, and the country’s largest concentration of student- and faculty-led startups.

    The gift will also support the launch of the newly conceived Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society, whose mission will be to explore and address the ethical and societal implications of AI and other emerging technologies. The Institute will facilitate cross-disciplinary research and collaboration and will draw on U of T’s signature strengths in the sciences, humanities and social sciences to explore the benefits and challenges that AI, biotechnology, and other technological advances present for our economy, our society and our day-to-day lives.

    “The University of Toronto is deeply grateful to Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman for their vision and generosity,” says President Meric Gertler. “This extraordinary gift will spark Canadian innovation, boost our economy, and enable a deeper examination of how technology shapes our daily lives. It’s a gift that reflects Gerry and Heather’s entrepreneurial spirit and their deep concern for Canadians and global society.”

    “This new complex will contribute enormously to innovation at U of T,” says world-renowned AI pioneer and University Professor Emeritus Geoffrey Hinton. “It will help consolidate Toronto’s leading position in the AI world. The Centre will attract other AI experts and help to spark additional AI-based innovations. It will also bring together scholars from an array of disciplines to study the implications of AI in today’s world.”

    2
    Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman: “We’re immensely proud and excited to be part of an initiative that will further spark innovation, anchor talent and ideas in Canada, and illuminate the importance of socially responsible technology” (photo by Nick Iwanyshyn)

    Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman are two of Canada’s most respected entrepreneurs and business leaders. Mr. Schwartz is the founder, chair, and CEO of Onex Corporation, Canada’s oldest and most successful private equity firm. Heather Reisman is the founder, chair and CEO of Indigo, the country’s leading book and lifestyle retailer.

    Schwartz and Reisman are also among the country’s most generous philanthropists. They have long supported institutions and causes across the country, particularly in the areas of literacy, education, health care and advanced research. Their previous gifts to the University of Toronto have made an immense difference to students, researchers and programs in several faculties. Both have had a long relationship with the university, having served as advisers for numerous strategic initiatives.

    This $100-million gift, made through The Gerald Schwartz & Heather Reisman Foundation, was inspired by their belief in the importance of research-based innovation as a driver of economic and social prosperity and their keen interest in the interdisciplinary exploration of how innovative technologies such as AI and regenerative medicine affect societies and individuals.

    “U of T is already a global leader in artificial intelligence, biomedicine and the intersections of society and technology,” say the couple. “We’re immensely proud and excited to be part of an initiative that will further spark innovation, anchor talent and ideas in Canada, and illuminate the importance of socially responsible technology.”

    A catalyst for innovation

    The Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre will occupy one of Toronto’s most iconic locations, the northeast corner of College and Queen’s Park.

    Designed by WEISS/MANFREDI, one of North America’s leading architectural firms, in collaboration wth Teeple Architects, the Centre will be a showcase for “innovation architecture.” The Centre’s stunning layout will feature vertical gardens, soaring atria and collaborative spaces and will promote intellectual exchange and invite the public to take part in events and interact with scholars and innovators. U of T expects the building’s engaging spaces to host thousands of researchers, investors, industry partners and international visitors annually.

    In addition to opening up the university to the city, the centre will stimulate economic growth by capitalizing on U of T’s research and innovation prowess and providing space for smaller Canadian companies to grow.

    “For the first time, the University of Toronto will have a central facility where young entrepreneurs and faculty can dream big,” says Scott Mabury, vice-president operations & real estate partnerships. “These flagship buildings will have purpose-built spaces for innovation and provide much-needed room for research-based scaleup companies, which will help to keep Canadian ideas and talent in Canada.”

    The Centre will be constructed in two phases. The first phase will be a 250,000-square-foot, 12-storey tower, while the second phase will be a 500,000-square-foot, 20-storey tower.

    The first tower will house, among other initiatives, the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, a world leader in deep learning and machine learning research. It will also house the newly conceived Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society.

    The second tower will house laboratories for some of the world’s top researchers and innovators in regenerative medicine, genetics and precision medicine. These scientists are investigating the promise of stem cells to repair and regenerate damaged tissues and organs, as well as treat cancer, diabetes, stroke and blindness. This tower will also house programs and organizations devoted to successfully translating these medical innovations into therapies and applications that will improve the lives of people all over the world, positioning Canada as a global leader in the health-care field.

    Both towers will provide much-needed space for startups and fast-growing companies, as well as various components of U of T’s innovation and entrepreneurship network.

    The Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society

    Since the days of Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan, U of T has developed a rich tradition of scholarship at the intersections of technology, culture and society. With renowned strengths in philosophy, ethics, law, social sciences, medicine, biomedical engineering, artificial intelligence, advanced materials, cybersecurity, fintech, cleantech and many other fields, U of T is one of the few institutions worldwide with the requisite breadth and depth to study the immense implications of modern technology, as well as how society shapes technological advances and how those technologies shape society.

    The university will appoint a director to lead the Institute. The director will hold the Schwartz Reisman Chair in Technology and Society and lead the development of programming and research initiatives. New fellowships and a research fund will help attract top minds to the Institute and encourage interdisciplinary collaboration.

    The Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society will also mount a steady calendar of activities – including a major international conference, high-profile speaker events and various workshops and seminars – to share its knowledge and insights with academia, industry, entrepreneurs, policymakers and the broader public.

    “The impact of technology on individuals and on society more generally is not well understood,” says Gillian Hadfield, professor of law and professor of strategic management. “The Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society will allow us to explore important topical issues such as the laws around digital surveillance and the use of autonomous weapons or how the cognitive abilities of artificially intelligent systems will impact human beings.”

    Amplifying U of T’s position in Canada and the world

    The University of Toronto is Canada’s leading university and consistently ranked among the top universities worldwide. U of T is also recognized as a leading engine for innovation and entrepreneurship. The U of T community of entrepreneurs has created more than 500 companies, and the university’s innovation network is among the world’s top five university-based incubators.

    The university also ranks in the top three for research output along with Harvard and Stanford universities. World-class strengths in fields such as biomedicine, computer science, law and philosophy make U of T the ideal place to study the effects of technology and society on one another.

    “The Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre will help U of T faculty and student entrepreneurs reimagine industries and contribute to Canada’s social and economic success,” says Vivek Goel, vice-president of research and innovation.

    Looking forward

    The university plans to begin construction on the first phase of the Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre in the fall of 2019. Before that, U of T will appoint a director for the Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society, plan the inaugural Schwartz Reisman International Conference, and raise awareness of the Institute and its mandate.

    “This gift from Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman is visionary in its scope,” says David Palmer, vice-president, advancement. “Two of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs are helping us build a facility that will support the next generation of Canadian entrepreneurs and ensure Canada’s global leadership in the responsible use of technology. The impact on our city, economy and society will be profound.”

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Founded in 1827, the University of Toronto has evolved into Canada’s leading institution of learning, discovery and knowledge creation. We are proud to be one of the world’s top research-intensive universities, driven to invent and innovate.

    Our students have the opportunity to learn from and work with preeminent thought leaders through our multidisciplinary network of teaching and research faculty, alumni and partners.

    The ideas, innovations and actions of more than 560,000 graduates continue to have a positive impact on the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:27 am on March 20, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , CRIS-Centre for Research and Innovation Support, Gerstein Library, Gerstein Science Information Centre, University of Toronto   

    From University of Toronto: “New research support for faculty on the way” 

    U Toronto Bloc

    From University of Toronto

    An exterior view of the Gerstein Science Information Centre

    When it comes to supporting research and innovation at the University of Toronto, all roads will soon lead to CRIS, a new gateway to help faculty access the university’s rich array of resources while boosting the potential impact of their discoveries.

    By creating a one-stop resource hub, including a website and physical location at the Gerstein Library, the Centre for Research and Innovation Support (CRIS) will help support successful and competitive research that attracts funding and garners public recognition.

    “Supporting the success of researchers is critical to garnering research funding in an increasingly competitive landscape and ensuring this research has the impact it deserves,” said Vivek Goel, vice-president of research and innovation.

    “CRIS will serve as a visible hub where faculty can learn about, and easily access, the many existing services, training, research tools and expertise offered across the university.”

    Even seasoned faculty members can find it challenging to navigate the current ecosystem spread across multiple university offices and academic divisions, with more than 140 information sessions, online resources and one-on-one services at U of T supporting the work of scholars.

    A joint endeavour by the Division of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation (VPRI), U of T Libraries (UTL) and the Office of the Chief Information Officer (CIO), the centre will increase the visibility of research supports to the tri-campus community, while providing a common online registration process. CRIS will be integrated with existing services, creating a lean operational structure.

    “A physical location is critical, so that CRIS can serve as a visible hub for in-person and virtual workshops and sessions,” said Chief Librarian Larry Alford.

    “U of T Libraries will provide existing space in the Gerstein Library for the centre. This location will include collaborative meeting spaces, and CRIS staff will also work with the research offices at U of T Mississauga and U of T Scarborough so that in-person programming is available on all campuses.”

    The centre will assist with navigating and co-ordinating support for faculty and divisional research offices, serve as a bridge to existing services, and connect the university with national organizations that promote excellence in research and innovation.

    CRIS will also create a “researcher’s toolbox” by consolidating research and innovation tools, databases, and catalogues that U of T Libraries, VPRI and the CIO subscribe to, as well as instructions on their use.

    Consultations with principals and deans have also indicated the importance of support for mentorship and leadership of research initiatives, including how to build and navigate cross-disciplinary and cross-divisional collaborations.

    CRIS will collaborate with central units and academic divisions to identify gaps and develop services and resources for emerging needs, including workshops on equity, diversity and inclusion, as well as impactful research publishing, data management and high-performance computing.

    The centre is slated to be up and running within the year.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Founded in 1827, the University of Toronto has evolved into Canada’s leading institution of learning, discovery and knowledge creation. We are proud to be one of the world’s top research-intensive universities, driven to invent and innovate.

    Our students have the opportunity to learn from and work with preeminent thought leaders through our multidisciplinary network of teaching and research faculty, alumni and partners.

    The ideas, innovations and actions of more than 560,000 graduates continue to have a positive impact on the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:47 am on March 18, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Global Data Service, IOT Internet of Things, Kepler Communications Toronto Ontario Canada, Narrow-band communications equipment, Start @ UTIAS, The Creative Destruction Lab, University of Toronto   

    From University of Toronto: “A place for space? U of T startup builds out a global satellite network – from downtown Toronto” 

    U Toronto Bloc

    From University of Toronto

    March 15, 2019
    Chris Sorensen

    1
    Co-founders Jeffrey Osborne and Mina Mitry say they’re luring back Canadian talent from around the world as Kepler Communications builds out a network of 140 pint-sized communications satellites. (photo by Nick Iwanyshyn)

    Located above a strip of Spadina Avenue populated by nail salons, currency exchange vendors and a leather supply store, the fourth-floor office of Kepler Communications looks like that of any other tech startup – exposed heating ducts, open concept layout, a large conference table for meetings.

    That is, until you spot the control room.

    Inside the glass walls, an operator stares at a bank of six large computer screens that display data from Kepler’s tiny communications satellites as they streak overhead, from pole to pole, at an altitude of about 600 kilometres. Above his head are four clocks displaying the local times of Kepler’s ground-based antennae in Markham, Ont., Inuvik, N.W.T., and Svalbard, Norway, as well as co-ordinated universal time or UTC.

    With 30 employees and counting, it’s all part of Kepler’s grand plan to build a low-cost constellation of 140 communications satellites over the next several years.

    “We’re going to be a global telecommunications network,” says CEO Mina Mitry, who did both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at U of T in aerospace engineering.

    “That’s not something to shy away from. For the cost of the capital expenditure we’ve incurred, who else in the world has been able to do that?”

    With two satellites already in operation, Kepler is currently test driving a product called Global Data Service with customers. The high-bandwidth service allows companies to send bulk data from fixed locations or moving vessels anywhere in the world – not unlike a space-based Dropbox. Already companies are using the service to send data from remote locations, including the High Arctic, where there is either no ground network infrastructure or satellite transmission costs are prohibitive. In the near future, Kepler also plans to help companies track shipping containers, construction equipment and other assets around the globe.

    Ultimately, Kepler’s grand vision includes extending its low-cost network connectivity beyond Earth so that satellites and other space vehicles can talk to each other, paving the way for a host of novel applications – from real-time tracking of autonomous vehicle fleets to monitoring first responders working in disaster zones.

    “When we get to that stage, we will be right on the cusp of not only providing true connectivity globally, but also extra-terrestrially – other devices that are up in orbit, which have traditionally never had that form of connectivity.”

    If the idea of providing the communications backbone for a new “space economy” in Toronto seems fanciful, Mitry is quick to assure that it’s not.

    “I think we have the right talent, the right universities – we’ve got an incredible wealth of knowledge – and people that want to come back to Canada just to work for Kepler,” he says.

    In fact, Mitry estimates that a full 15 per cent of the company’s employees have been “repatriated” from places like Silicon Valley, Seattle and countries in Europe. These are bright minds who left Canada in search of exciting careers, he says, but are now being drawn back by the opportunity to work for innovative local companies that are helping fuel Toronto’s tech boom.

    Nor is it just Kepler that has spotted an opportunity for Canadian startups at edges of Earth’s atmosphere. The Creative Destruction Lab, a seed-stage accelerator affiliated with U of T’s Rotman School of Management, last spring launched a dedicated stream for space-focused startups. Its lead mentor is none other than Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station.

    2
    An operator monitors Kepler’s satellites from a control room inside the company’s headquarters on Spadina Avenue. (photo by Nick Iwanyshyn)

    Kepler’s origins can be traced to the University of Toronto Aerospace Team, a not-for-profit initiative Mitry helped build during his graduate studies. Originally focused on building aircraft and drones for competitions, the group later moved into rocketry and satellites – all while growing its membership from about five to over 100 people.

    That’s where Mitry met fellow co-founder and current vice-president of strategy and business development Jeffrey Osborne, as well as Kepler’s other two co-founders Mark Michael and Wen Cheng Chong. The group’s work on the team provided them with early insight into how the space industry’s once insurmountable barriers to entry were steadily being eroded thanks to shared launch vehicles and a changing regulatory environment.

    “We understood that deeply,” Mitry says. “But the rest of the world may still have had the common misconception that, ‘Well, you’re not Lockheed Martin, you’re not a major aerospace contractor, therefore you can’t access space.’”

    It wasn’t long before the group spotted an opportunity to prove such conventional thinking wrong.

    Kepler’s co-founders decided there was money to be made by using a low-cost satellite platform and high-bandwidth service. So they focused on CubeSats and the Ku-band frequency, which allows for particularly high data throughputs. Their efforts were supported by U of T’s Entrepreneurship Hatchery and Start @ UTIAS – just two of the many entrepreneurship hubs on campus.

    While there were some significant engineering hurdles to overcome with regards to miniaturizing components, Kepler managed to successfully put its first microsatellite into orbit in early 2018 after launching from a rocket in northwestern China. It followed up the feat with a second launch of a similar satellite ten months later – this time on a rocket that blasted off from India.

    One of Kepler’s existing clients is the German shipping company F. Laeisz, which operates an icebreaking vessel called the Polarstern that spends most of its life outside the range of typical geostationary communications satellites. The crew plans to use the Global Data Service to send back to shore giant files that include high-resolution imagery, data logs and video.

    A third satellite is scheduled to be launched this spring or summer. Unlike the first two, this one will also be equipped with narrow-band communications equipment. It’s designed to provide a more cellular-like data service to connect smaller assets such as remote sensors in weather stations or moving containers and rail cars.

    Osborne says the narrow-band service will target industrial customers who want insight into questions like: “Where is my asset while its moving around the globe? What is the temperature of my asset? Has it been damaged or stolen?” It’s basically a way to provide global connectivity, from space, for what’s known as the Internet of Things, or IOT.

    Kepler Communications satellite depiction

    . A rendering of one of Kepler’s tiny, low-cost satellites, which aren’t much bigger than a loaf of bread (image courtesy of Kepler Communications)

    Kepler’s efforts to build out its constellation received a boost after it successfully raised US$16 million in financing last fall. It plans to have the first generation of the network in place, consisting of 10 to 15 spacecraft, by early 2020. It’s also planning to add two more antenna sites in Norway and New Zealand.

    Of course, Kepler isn’t the only company eyeing space-based communications networks. Elon Musk’s SpaceX, for example, last year received approvals from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to move ahead with plans to put as many as 12,000 satellites in orbit with the goal of providing global Internet connectivity. Each satellite in the proposed Starlink network would be about the size of a car.

    How does Kepler plan to compete? Osborne says the startup was deliberate in its decision to focus narrowly on commercial customers, and has amassed a favourable regulatory position in the marketplace “that gives us advantages when it comes to being able to offer different types of services.”

    Being based in Canada also has its benefits. Kepler has more opportunity to take advantage of global launch schedules than its American competitors because it’s not subject to U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR, according to Mitry. He adds that Kepler has also benefited from Canada’s more favourable immigration laws when it comes to hiring global talent.

    But the biggest difference between Kepler and many of its competitors comes from its strategic decision, made early on, to use a cheaper, more nimble fleet of satellites. Each one has a three- to five-year lifespan as opposed to a decade or more for more conventional spacecraft.

    “That means we can get our satellites into orbit quicker, which means we can respond to new market demands much quicker,” Osborne says. “It also means we can incorporate new technologies into our assets to respond, again, to changing market demands or new innovations coming online.

    “We have the advantage of being able to fill in the gaps of connectivity a little bit easier than some of these other operators that are building mega-constellations.”

    Score one – actually 140, if all goes to plan – for the little guy.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Founded in 1827, the University of Toronto has evolved into Canada’s leading institution of learning, discovery and knowledge creation. We are proud to be one of the world’s top research-intensive universities, driven to invent and innovate.

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  • richardmitnick 2:51 pm on May 7, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Portable 3D skin printer to repair deep wounds, University of Toronto   

    From University of Toronto: “U of T researchers develop portable 3D skin printer to repair deep wounds” 

    U Toronto Bloc

    From University of Toronto

    1
    From left to right, Associate Professor Axel Guenther, Navid Hakimi and Richard Cheng have created the first ‘skin printer’ that forms tissues in situ for application to wounds (photo by Liz Do)

    University of Toronto researchers have developed a handheld 3D skin printer that deposits even layers of skin tissue to cover and heal deep wounds. The team believes it to be the first device that forms tissue in situ, depositing and setting in place, within two minutes or less.

    1
    Credit: University of Toronto

    The research, led by PhD student Navid Hakimi under the supervision of Associate Professor Axel Guenther of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, and in collaboration with Dr. Marc Jeschke, director of the Ross Tilley Burn Centre at Sunnybrook Hospital and professor of immunology at the Faculty of Medicine, was recently published in the journal Lab on a Chip.

    For patients with deep skin wounds, all three skin layers – the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis – may be heavily damaged. The current preferred treatment is called split-thickness skin grafting, where healthy donor skin is grafted onto the surface epidermis and part of the underlying dermis.

    Split-thickness grafting on large wounds requires enough healthy donor skin to traverse all three layers, and sufficient graft skin is rarely available. This leaves a portion of the wounded area “ungrafted” or uncovered, leading to poor healing outcomes.

    Although a large number of tissue-engineered skin substitutes exist, they are not yet widely used in clinical settings.

    “Most current 3D bioprinters are bulky, work at low speeds, are expensive and are incompatible with clinical application,” explains Guenther.

    The research team believes their in-situ skin printer is a platform technology that can overcome these barriers, while improving the skin-healing process – a major step forward.

    The handheld skin printer resembles a white-out tape dispenser – except the tape roll is replaced by a microdevice that forms tissue sheets. Vertical stripes of “bio ink,” made up of protein-based biomaterials including collagen, the most abundant protein in the dermis, and fibrin, a protein involved in wound healing, run along the inside of each tissue sheet.

    “Our skin printer promises to tailor tissues to specific patients and wound characteristics,” says Hakimi. “And it’s very portable.”

    The handheld device is the size of a small shoe box and weighs less than a kilogram. It also requires minimal operator training and eliminates the washing and incubation stages required by many conventional bioprinters.

    The researchers plan to add several capabilities to the printer, including expanding the size of the coverable wound areas. Working with Jeschke’s team at Sunnybrook Hospital, they plan to perform more in vivo studies. They hope that one day they can begin running clinical trials on humans, and eventually revolutionize burn care.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Toronto Campus

    Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in depth and breadth on any other Canadian campus.

    Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in depth and breadth on any other Canadian campus.

     
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