Location for innovation

The Queen’s-affiliated facility on Princess St. is home to companies hoping to commercialize their technologies

Innovation Park provides opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students
Image by: Tiffany Lam
Innovation Park provides opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students

Testing facilities at Innovation Park are helping fumes from car paint generate power.

The Queen’s-RMC Fuel Cell Research Centre (FCRC) is currently researching ways to harness energy produced by incinerating harmful paint fumes, said Brant Peppley, director of the FCRC.

The FCRC is one of several initiatives based in Innovation Park — a 200,000 square ft. complex at Princess St. and Bath Rd.

Queen’s-based initatives take up around 85,000 square feet of the facility which is made up of a community of researchers and organizations working to simulate commercialization and develop innovations for the marketplace.

“We’re taking a substance that was a pollutant and turning it into clean power,” Peppley, a Queen’s professor, said.

The Ford Motor Oakville Assembly Complex in southern Ontario sends the Centre trapped paint fume samples using a carbon absorbent. The samples are used to test different methods of hydrogen conversion and the information is then relayed to the Complex, where the actual conversion of fumes to fuel is done.

Power generated could potentially be used to power an office block or small residential area, Peppley said.

Queen’s researchers have been examining ways of turning the paint solvents into a gas mixture that can be used in a fuel cell.

A fuel cell is a battery where the energy source is continuously added to keep the battery powered.

“If we can run the world on fuel cells instead of internal combustion engines, we can actually start exploiting renewable energy sources,” he said.

Peppley said what could be powered by paint fumes is astounding.

For example, the paint fumes from painting pick-up trucks in the Complex would provide about a megawatt (MW) of power, Peppley estimated. This is enough to generate an average hourly power demand for Stauffer and Douglas libraries and the JDUC, which is about 1.1 MW. Peppley added that this technology could potentially be utilized in other car manufacturing plants across the world.

Around 40 student researchers, in addition to post-doctoral researchers, administrative assistants and professors work at the lab. This number increases during the summer when four to 10 internships are available for undergraduate students.

Summer intern tasks may vary from evaluating greenhouse gas emissions to measuring thermal conductivity.

But the FCRC doesn’t stop there.

Peppley said the team at FCRC endeavors to go beyond the science and technology realm by looking at issues of policy and social impact.

It hopes graduate students leaving the Centre will be not only qualified in technology, but conscientious of the importance of sustainability and the well-being of society.

“We’re not just a bunch of techies playing with fancy toys, we’re doing it because we want to make a difference,” Peppley said.

Medizone, another company based at Innovation Park, has developed a technology to help with the sterilization of hospital rooms.

The technology, AsepticSure, seeks to be more effective than manually disinfecting a hospital room.

It’s a gas mixture that can be injected into a room to sterilize it, said Rick Boswell, assistant director at Innovation Park.

Applications of this technology can extend beyond hospitals, which includes sterilizing meatpacking plants, food processing and hotel rooms.

Boswell said that professional sports equipment could also benefit from the treatment.

“If you play hockey or football, your equipment turnover is very high because as you wear them it gets very stinky. They found that they can gas the equipment to get rid of the bacteria,” he said.

Medizone’s headquarters are currently based in California, but the facility at Innovation Park is the research and development facility for the company. Boswell noted that Medizone came to Innovation Park three years ago wanting space on a very short-term basis, and they’ve never left.

Novelis currently owns the site, with Queen’s taking responsibility for the entire second floor and smaller companies paying rent to use space in the building.

Queen’s launched their part at Innovation Park in 2008 with the intent of having researchers, innovators and specialists work together.

Janice Mady, director of Innovation Park, said the facility can be crucial for new businesses in Kingston because of the agencies which reside in the Park. “Any company that wants to do business in Kingston or start a business in Kingston really has to come through the Innovation Park front doors,” she said. “They need to work with the Kingston Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO), they need to work with the Chamber [of Commerce].”

PARTEQ Innovations — the technology transfer office at Queen’s and GreenCentre Canada — directed by Philip Jessop, a world renowned environmental chemist and professor at Queen’s, are also residents of the Park.

Novelis, a leader in rolled aluminum products, have based their research and development facility at the location since 1942.

Novelis’ ministry approval for air and noise emissions on their grounds allows the process of getting approved for potential emissions for smaller businesses to be minimized. For Stephen Liss, the community at Innovation Park is just as important as the initiatives that rise from it.

“The community creates opportunity for synergy and interaction,” Liss, Queen’s vice principal of research, said. “It’s more than real estate space. Partnerships are critical. Vision is the key.”

The Park is changing as Novelis prepares to relocate to Atlanta to be closer to their head office.

“Novelis is basically a materials-based company, mostly in aluminum. They are driven towards the auto sector,” Liss said.

Initially, the company was to phase their operations out of Kingston to Atlanta over time, but now the research and development facility will be shut down by next summer.

“We hope to continue collaboration and to maintain the relationship,” Liss said. “Right now, it’s business as usual. The University will be assessing the options. The concern right now is that we continue to move forward.”



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