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RDC invests $1.6 million in R&D at Memorial University

By Meaghan Whelan | March 1, 2013

Deepwater seabed surveying, navigation and control systems for field robots and improving cyber security measures are among the nine academic-led research and development projects at Memorial University that received more than $1.6 million in total funding from the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador (RDC) recently.

RDC’s funding is provided through a number of academic programs designed to increase R&D capacity in Newfoundland and Labrador, including GeoEXPLORE, IgniteR&D, CollaborativeR&D and LeverageR&D.

“The funding programs offered by RDC are essential to Memorial’s research landscape,” said Dr. Gary Kachanoski, president and vice-chancellor, Memorial University of Newfoundland. “RDC investments enable our researchers to carry out projects that advance strategic areas of research, contribute to our understanding of our world and position Memorial as a university of distinction.”

One project funded by RDC aims to enhance the level of detail and accessibility of seabed surveys using an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). The project, led by Dr. Andrew Vardy, an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science in Memorial’s Faculty of Science, could be used for environmental monitoring and offshore exploration.

“AUVs are most useful in gathering data from inaccessible areas such as underneath the Arctic ice shelf or in very deep water,” said Dr. Vardy. “The support of RDC has been critical to the project and has enabled us to execute the project's objectives while providing a rich training environment for undergraduate and graduate students.”

Researchers from College of the North Atlantic’s Ridge Road campus, Memorial University’s Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Science, the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, the Marine Institute and C-CORE received funding in the announcement.

“Leading-edge R&D is a key contributor to Newfoundland and Labrador’s growing and robust economy,” said Keith Hutchings, minister responsible for the Research & Development Corporation. “The combination of our abundance of natural resources, world-class academic institutions and geographic position means this province has a competitive advantage when it comes to advancing research and development that industry needs.”

A total of $1,660,405 was invested in the following nine research projects at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Funding is received through RDC’s academic programs: LeverageR&D, IgniteR&D, CollaborativeR&D and GeoEXPLORE and leverages $10,057,159.

Responsive AUV Localization and Mapping (REALM), $275,000 from RDC
Dr. Andrew Vardy, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Science and Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science
This project aims to expand the capabilities of Memorial's Explorer autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) by equipping it for seabed survey and sub-bottom imaging while also conducting research on AUV navigation and risk mitigation technologies. Funding from RDC leverages $2,054,552 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency; $240,000 from Fugro Geosurveys; $41,839 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada; and $620,897 from other sources.

Employment-Related Geographic Mobility in the Canadian Context, $500,000 from RDC
Dr. Barbara Neis, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Arts
This project will study employment-related geographical mobility within Canada with a substantial focus on Newfoundland and Labrador. Specifically, the project will study multiple sectors and occupations associated with extended commuting (from two-three hours daily to weeks and months away from home) for the purpose of employment. The main objective is to understand patterns, practices and consequences of different kinds of employment-related geographical mobility for employers, unions, workers and their families and home and host communities in Newfoundland and Labrador and other parts of Canada. The seven-year research program is being done with the support of multiple community partners from industry, labour, government and community organizations. It will ensure that these partnering organizations and other stakeholder groups have the opportunity to learn more about when and why extended commuting happens, as well as how it affects recruitment, retention, absenteeism, collective bargaining and other aspects of employment as well as the daily lives of workers and their families and the economic development and resilience of home and host communities. Research of this kind if particularly important for Newfoundland and Labrador as it transitions from a labour exporting province to a labour importing province. The policy implications of this research include potential changes in recruitment practices, work scheduling, policies related to supported housing and transportation along with other policies. Funding from RDC leverages $2,500,000 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and $625,432 from other sources.

Co-ordinated Control and Navigation of Field Robots
, $71,000 from RDC
Dr. George Mann, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science
The objective of the project is to develop and test a co-ordinated navigation and control system in multiple field robots for autonomous operations in harsh environments. The long-term objective is to develop autonomous navigation capabilities that can be used for a variety of industrial applications such as mining, oil and gas, agriculture, search and rescue, construction and forestry. The first activity is related to the development of a discrete event system (DES) based control architecture for co-ordination and control of multiple robots. The second activity is related to co-operative localization. The robots should be capable of operating in areas where there is no access to GPS. In that case the robots are localized using corporative localization strategies and multi-robotic simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) techniques. The third activity is related to co-ordination through formation control strategies. The field robotic mission will be represented as a formation control problem. Multi-robot exploration task can be formalized using formation control. In this activity it is anticipated to develop tracking and control strategies for leader follower systems. In this case visual attention based tracking systems are developed for achieving the formation. RDC leverages $71,025 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Seismic Modelling and Inversion
, $215,368 from RDC
Dr. John Whitehead, Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography, Faculty of Science
The goal of this project is develop innovative techniques in geophysical inversion and seismic modelling that will aid natural resources industries in the creation of more accurate geological models in a timely and cost efficient manner. The project aims to develop a large-scale computational resource based on current multi-processor, multi-core, shared-memory architecture with a functional state-of-the-art seismic modeling capability installed and tested. Dr. Whitehead and his team also aim to commercialize the project’s intellectual property including partnerships with private sector interests, as well as apply the proposed seismic modelling capability to a series of problems related to exploration geophysics. Funding from RDC leverages $861,472 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Reducing Seabed Impacts of Bottom Trawls
(AIF Project), $75,000 from RDC
Dr. Paul Winger, Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Resources, Marine Institute
This project investigates the development of innovative trawling systems capable of catching commercial quantities of finfish and shellfish, with reduced seabed contact compared to traditional systems. It involves the expansion of current capabilities at the Marine Institute’s flume tank to allow for performance evaluations of trawl nets, including a comparison of operational efficiency, net geometry, drag, fuel consumption and by-catch levels. To characterize the trawl relative to the seabed, innovative optical, acoustical and laser-scanning technologies are being developed for underwater applications. This innovative technology, which is currently not available in other flume tanks, will enhance the researchers’ ability to evaluate scaled physical models in a controlled environment. An investment in this area may offer significant long-term economic development potential for the province as the application of the technology can be used not only for sustainable fisheries development but for research in other ocean technology sectors such as energy and oil and gas. Funding from RDC leverages $1,815,442 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund; $125,000 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada; $250,000 from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador; $25,000 from Vonin Canada; $125,000 from Vonin Ltd.; and $125,000 from other sources.

Computational Modelling of Ionic Liquid Extraction of Sulfur Contaminants from Crude Oil
, $95,037 from RDC
Dr. Christopher Rowley, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science
This research will use computer simulations to develop more efficient and environmentally-friendly ways of removing sulfur-containing pollutants from refined diesel fuel. Ionic liquids are novel alternative solvents that have demonstrated the ability to selectively extract aromatic sulfur contaminants. In collaboration with other researchers at Memorial, the team will develop computer modelling techniques for simulating this extraction process, with the aim of developing an industrially viable and environmentally sustainable desulfurization process based on this technology. This research will improve the ability of scientists to design ionic liquids that are effective as desulfurization solvents. The researcher will establish a computational modeling lab in the Department of Chemistry at Memorial.

Smart Grid and its Cyber Security
, $99,000 from RDC
Dr. Hamid Usefi, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Faculty of Science
The infrastructure in our electric grid is old, and with the emerging technology there is a high demand to renew this infrastructure. The new grid will be smart in the sense that there will be an efficient monitoring of the flow of network – consumers will be able to remotely turn on/off appliances and manage their usage. This project will analyze the Smart Grid concept, its vulnerabilities, then research and improve upon commonly used security measures.

Compressive Ice Failure Mechanics
, $300,000 from RDC
Dr. Ian Jordaan, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and Centre for Arctic Research and Development, C-CORE
One of the areas that is important in further exploration of Arctic and sub-Arctic regions is the safe, yet economic, design of vertical-walled offshore structures and ships for the ice conditions present in these regions. Understanding ice compressive failure behaviour and the associated mechanics are critical in modelling ice loads and risk. While the mechanics of ice crushing are complex, significant progress has been made in understanding the processes involved and simplifying key aspects of failure behavior. This project seeks to expand this research to investigate fundamental issues, such as the behaviour of high pressure zones and processes that limit ice failure pressures, which are of great importance for design. Funding from RDC leverages $300,000 from Statoil and $240,000 from C-CORE.

North Atlantic Plate Reconstruction Project
, $30,000 from RDC
Dr. Jeremy Hall, Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Science
This project will investigate how the Jeanne d’Arc Basin has evolved over time in three dimensions. The results will be used to develop a regional model of plate edge deformation over time that can be used for future oil projects. A graduate student, Caroline McIlroy, has been identified as a member of the core research team and will be directly involved in the comparative study of the Jeanne d’Arc Basin. The team will make a regional interpretation of faults across the basin and estimate fault displacements to arrive at the total extension through the crust. Ms. McIlroy will conduct a detailed 3-D seismic study of fault interactions to establish how faults with different orientations move individually to produce strain. The results will be fed into plate deformation modelling software. Funding from RDC leverages $20,000 from Husky Energy and $16,500 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Discovery Grant.


Dec. 22, 3-5 p.m.
IIC-2014, Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation
Dec. 24, 10:30-11:30 a.m.
D.F. Cook Recital Hall, School of Music
Jan. 1, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
IIC-2014, Bruneau Centre for Research & Innovation
Jan. 12, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
IIC-2014, Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation
Jan. 13, 12-1 p.m.
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