Media Releases

University of Toronto student gets a financial boost by clinching the top spot in a national automotive R&D competition

February 2, 2012

MISSISSAUGA, ON — A new biodegrad­able mate­r­i­al made from shrimp and crab shells that can replace petro­le­um-based plas­tics used in auto com­po­nents helped a Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to stu­dent win a nation­al auto­mo­tive com­pe­ti­tion. Aaron Guan, a mas­ter of sci­ence stu­dent, won the AUTO21 Test­DRIVE com­pe­ti­tion, receiv­ing a $10,000 schol­ar­ship for his work on recy­clable, light­weight, poly­mer­ic nanocom­pos­ites.

Shrimp and crab shell fibres called chitin nanowhiskers form the base of this new mate­r­i­al, which would allow auto­mo­tive com­po­nents to meet strict envi­ron­men­tal stan­dards with­out com­pro­mis­ing vehi­cle safe­ty. This mate­r­i­al has a much high­er strength-to-weight ratio com­pared to con­ven­tion­al plas­tics used in most auto­mo­tive com­po­nents, and pro­vides high­er mechan­i­cal strength with­out aes­thet­ic flaws or defor­ma­tion at low­er den­si­ties.

Due to the com­pos­ite nature of the mate­r­i­al, mechan­i­cal prop­er­ties can eas­i­ly be engi­neered to suit var­i­ous strength, stiff­ness and weight require­ments sim­ply by vary­ing the com­bi­na­tion of chitin nanowhisker and poly­mer con­tent. The mate­r­i­al is also com­plete­ly renew­able and sus­tain­able as chitin nanowhiskers are derived from the waste of the fish­ing indus­try.

The AUTO21 Test­DRIVE com­pe­ti­tion show­cased lead­ing edge tech­nolo­gies and auto­mo­tive knowl­edge devel­oped in part by Cana­di­an uni­ver­si­ty grad­u­ate stu­dents. As Canada’s auto­mo­tive research pro­gram, AUTO21 pro­vides fund­ing to 38 applied R&D projects at 46 uni­ver­si­ties across the coun­try. Over 400 stu­dents con­tribute to these projects, along with near­ly 200 aca­d­e­m­ic researchers. Since its estab­lish­ment in 2001, AUTO21 has sup­port­ed more than 1600 grad­u­ate stu­dent researchers with fed­er­al and pri­vate-sec­tor fund­ing.

“The devel­op­ment of High­ly Qual­i­fied Peo­ple or HQP is inte­gral to the suc­cess of any high tech­nol­o­gy indus­try and the future pros­per­i­ty of Cana­da. AUTO21 HQP each con­tribute to an indus­try-led research project work­ing on key issues in Canada’s auto­mo­tive sec­tor,” said Dr. Peter Frise, Sci­en­tif­ic Direc­tor and CEO of AUTO21. “Test­DRIVE pro­vides anoth­er oppor­tu­ni­ty for our top stu­dents to engage with the auto­mo­tive R&D com­mu­ni­ty and link their aca­d­e­m­ic stud­ies to real-world sce­nar­ios.”

Test­DRIVE was held in con­junc­tion with Cana­di­an Man­u­fac­tur­ers & Exporters’ 2012 Small Man­u­fac­tur­ing Sum­mit, Dri­ving Busi­ness Growth in Uncer­tain Times in Mis­sis­sauga, Ontario.

“The Test­DRIVE com­pe­ti­tion is a great way to show­case the tremen­dous inno­va­tion capac­i­ty of today’s young peo­ple and the end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties avail­able to the next gen­er­a­tion of man­u­fac­tur­ing lead­ers”, said Ian How­croft, Vice Pres­i­dent, CME Ontario.

In addi­tion to the $10,000 schol­ar­ship, a $5,000 schol­ar­ship was award­ed to Antho­ny Lom­bar­di of Ryer­son Uni­ver­si­ty for his research on reduc­ing dis­tor­tion in alu­minum engine blocks. A $2,500 schol­ar­ship was award­ed to Tara Kajaks of McMas­ter Uni­ver­si­ty for her research on improved ergonom­ic sim­u­la­tion and mod­el­ing in man­u­fac­tur­ing plants.

AUTO21 sup­ports research projects in six key areas: health, safe­ty and injury pre­ven­tion; soci­etal issues; mate­ri­als and man­u­fac­tur­ing; design process­es; pow­er­trains, fuels and emis­sions; and intel­li­gent sys­tems and sen­sors. A recent inde­pen­dent eco­nom­ic impact study of AUTO21 projects esti­mates that Net­work research is gen­er­at­ing more than $1.1 bil­lion in eco­nom­ic and social ben­e­fits to Cana­da. AUTO21 is sup­port­ed by the Gov­ern­ment of Cana­da through a Net­works of Cen­tres of Excel­lence pro­gram, and its admin­is­tra­tive cen­tre is host­ed by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wind­sor.


For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Stephanie Campeau
Direc­tor of Pub­lic Affairs and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions
AUTO21 Net­work of Cen­tres of Excel­lence
Office: 519–253-3000 ext. 4129
Cell: 519–890-6830