KINGSTON, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Jan. 8, 2016) - Ground-breaking research to develop next-generation clean technologies is now possible thanks to a $4 million investment announced today by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science. The funding, through the Discovery Frontiers initiative of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), goes to a Canada-wide team led by Dr. Gregory Jerkiewicz of Queen's University.

The primary thrust of the research led by Dr. Jerkiewicz will be the science and engineering challenges involved in the production of hydrogen gas - one of the most promising carbon-free energy sources - from water using a new class of catalysts made from nickel. As a related field of inquiry, the team will also explore the use of nickel catalysts to break down glycerol - a waste product from biodiesel production - into commercially useable chemicals.

As well, the research team will work on a new generation of membranes - a "high tech version of food wrap" - that can be used with alkaline solutions to break down water into hydrogen and oxygen gases.

Quick Facts

The Discovery Frontiers initiative addresses national research priorities and global challenges by supporting a small number of major transformative activities. The current round of funding targets the area of new materials for clean energy and energy efficiency.

The program aims to identify and capitalize on emerging opportunities where Canada can benefit from its world-class capacity to take a leadership role in key areas of research and innovation.

Hydrogen gas is used in many industrial processes, including the production of several chemical compounds. Current hydrogen gas production, however, is very energy intensive and produces large amounts of CO2, a greenhouse gas. The new processes that would result from this research promise to reduce energy consumption and eliminate CO2.

A new generation of hydrogen-producing catalysts could also make possible clean tech vehicles powered by alkaline fuel cells using hydrogen gas instead of gasoline or diesel.


"I congratulate Dr. Jerkiewicz and his team on being selected to undertake this ambitious research program. Their research project has the potential to reduce energy consumption and to develop the next generation of nickel-based materials, making advancements in the field of clean technologies. This is of particular importance in the context of a sustainable environment and a greener future."

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science

"NSERC encourages bold, high-impact research programs that tackle cutting-edge high priority areas, such as clean energy. I am pleased to see this pan-Canadian team bring together such a diverse, complementary range of expertise to produce new knowledge that will someday underpin disruptive new technologies that will benefit our economy and society. I am especially pleased that so many students and postdoctoral fellows will be mentored in an ambitious research environment with both Canadian and international partners."

Dr. B. Mario Pinto, NSERC President

"This project is an excellent example of the impact Queen's researchers are making in Canada and internationally. Research is a core component of the mission of Queen's University, and Professor Jerkiewicz and his international team are a prime example of how innovative, collaborative projects can enable researchers to respond quickly to embrace new opportunities and ensure the research enterprise remains at the leading-edge of discovery."

Daniel Woolf Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Queen's University

"Canada faces challenges associated with declining reserves of non-renewable energy sources, environmental pollution, greenhouse gas production, and related societal issues. Building on Canada's strengths in the nickel, water electrolysis, and fuel cell sectors, this project will lay the foundation for Canadian leadership in the next generation of electrochemical clean energy technologies."

Dr. Gregory Jerkiewicz, Professor and Research Director, Queen's University

Associated Link

Discovery Frontiers Initiative


NSERC invests over $1 billion each year in natural sciences and engineering research in Canada. Our investment delivers discoveries, valuable world-firsts in knowledge claimed by a brain trust of over 11,300 professors, world-leading researchers in their fields. Our investments enable partnerships and collaborations that connect industry with discoveries and the people behind them. Researcher-industry partnerships established by NSERC help inform R&D, solve scale-up challenges and reduce the risks of developing high-potential technology.

Our investments provide scholarships and hands-on training experience for the next generation of science and engineering leaders in Canada, almost 30,000 post-secondary students and post-doctoral fellows.