Through the federal granting agency's Industrial Research Chairs program, both Hoa and Khendek will each receive five years of funding, totalling in the millions. This much-needed financial support will allow Concordia to build on its existing strengths in both software and aerospace research while uniting the university with industry leaders who have signed on to co-fund the professors' projects. These industrial research partners will collaborate closely with Hoa and Khendek to provide relevant training opportunities for their graduate students, leading to the dissemination of their research results in Canada and abroad.
For Athienitis, NSERC's Strategic Network Grants Program represents the key to increasing research and training in solar energy, generating new knowledge as well as technology that will strengthen Canada's industrial base, generate wealth and create employment while influencing national public policy in this strategically important research area. With over $5 million in funding dispersed over five years, this new network will also help increase the number of highly qualified personnel working in solar energy while increasing the participation of Canadian-based companies in academic research.
From software management to solar energy to the future of aerospace, NSERC is funding new research initiatives that will help Concordia redefine the modern world. See how in the research summaries that follow.
Andreas Athienitis - Professor, Department of Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Concordia Research Chair Tier I Scientific Director, NSERC Smart Net-Zero Energy Buildings Strategic Research Network
Buildings account for a whopping 40% of North America's fossil fuel consumption. Under the leadership of Andreas Athienitis, researchers at Concordia are working to reverse this trend by improving how solar power is harnessed and augmenting construction standards to the point where future buildings can generate as much electricity as they use, resulting in a net-zero consumption over a typical year.
With the help of joint funding from NSERC and industry, the Smart Net-Zero Energy Buildings Strategic Research Network will conduct research that will facilitate the widespread adoption of optimized net-zero energy buildings in key regions of Canada by 2030. These buildings will ultimately influence long-term national policy on the design and construction of net-zero energy buildings. The network will be headquartered at Concordia and bring together researchers and experts from 15 Canadian universities and 20 industrial and government partners. Concordia has the largest group of researchers in the Network: Paul Fazio, Ted Stathopoulos and Radu Zmeureanu from the Department of Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering, as well as Sheldon Williamson from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
If the aim of revolutionizing the Canadian building industry within the next 20 years sounds ambitious, that's because it is. But Athienitis and his team are taking a multidisciplinary approach towards the effective design and operation of smart net-zero energy buildings, favouring a number of technological solutions rather than a single answer. That means combining passive systems (like high-performance windows with active control of solar gains) with dynamic building envelope technologies (such as building-integrated solar systems like the one found atop Concordia's own John Molson School of Business building). "To put it simply," explains Athienitis, "we will investigate the best ways to achieve zero average annual energy consumption for both commercial buildings and at home."
Suong Van Hoa - Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering
NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Automated Composites Manufacturing
The Canadian aerospace industry is the third largest in the world behind the USA and the European Community. In order to retain or improve its position in this competitive marketplace, Canada must keep abreast of the latest technologies. For Suong Van Hoa, that means accelerating the scientific and technical know-how relating to a new composite materials manufacturing technique known as Automated Fiber Placement (AFP). With the recent advent of the Boeing 787 and Airbus 380, massive aircraft with fuselage that extensively incorporates extremely strong and highly durable composite materials like carbon fibre, there has been a major shift towards basing composite manufacturing technology on AFP rather than the traditional labour-intensive methods.
"Up until now, aircraft have been built by hand." explains Hoa. "But the increased use of composites that we're seeing from major players in the aerospace industry means that those methods are no longer good enough." The aerospace industry now has to play catch up with the automotive industry by moving towards automated manufacturing techniques, relying on robots such as the ones we have right here at Concordia to put together the huge composite structures necessary for these aircraft.
The overall objective of Hoa's research program (which is funded by NSERC and industrial partners, Bombardier Aerospace, Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Ltd., Composites Atlantic, Delastek and Emergia Aerospace) is to develop industrially relevant AFP materials and processing technologies relating to the automated manufacture of primary aerospace structures, with emphasis on small to medium parts of complex machinery. Properly engineered AFP processing promises to deliver composite components of higher quality, improved environmental friendliness and with lower manufacturing costs than commonly used composite technologies.
Ferhat Khendek - Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
NSERC/Ericsson Industrial Research Chair in Model-based Software Management
As society becomes increasingly dependent upon technology, software systems are necessarily becoming larger and more ubiquitous, composed of different parts developed by different software vendors, configured and deployed on clusters of hundreds hardware nodes or even on cloud computing platforms. Throughout their ever-expanding lifecycles, these systems need to be properly managed so that they continue to meet user/customer requirements such as performance, availability and reliability.
"With the increased complexity of these software systems," notes Khendek, "comes issues such as how to select appropriate components, how to ensure user requirements are satisfied, how to select the right hardware platform, how to avoid wasting resources, how to detect degradation, how to upgrade systems without or with very limited downtime, etc." Taking an academic approach to answering these questions is the driving force between Ferhat Khendek's Industrial Research Chair, co-funded by NSERC and software/telecom giant Ericsson.
Along with a team of graduate students and researchers, and with invaluable contributions from Ericsson, Khendek plans to develop techniques and approaches for the integration, configuration, deployment, upgrade, validation, and monitoring of large and complex software systems. These techniques and approaches will not only take into account performance and availability of provided services, but also deployment platforms such as clusters and cloud computing properties. Ultimately, the approaches, architectures, and techniques researched and developed through this research program will lead to better quality software systems for the provisioning of services meeting functional and non-functional user requirements. This will also shorten the time to market of application/telecom platform solutions and will strengthen the position of the Canadian computing and telecommunications industries in the global and competitive market.