Department of Chemistry Opens Unique High-Pressure Hydrogenation Lab


Improved nuclear power plants and more green products and processes are the intended goals for a new U of G chemistry research lab that is one of a kind among Canadian academic institutions.

Opened in December, the high-pressure hydrogenation lab features bench-top reactor vessels that will allow teams led by professors Marcel Schlaf and Peter Tremaine to safely study aspects of energy and biomass conversion under hydrogen-rich conditions at extremely high pressure and temperature.

No similar research facility exists at a post-secondary institution in Canada, says Schlaf. 

The $600,000 lab in the Science Complex was paid for by federal and provincial funding along with U of G funds.

Schlaf’s lab team will study conversion of biomass molecules from waste materials (wood chips, corn stover) into fuels and other materials as an alternative to using non-renewable fossil fuels. “We want to make fuel and chemicals sustainably from renewable resources,” he says.

Tremaine and other researchers will run experiments to help extend the lifetime of existing nuclear power reactors and design next-generation nuclear facilities, specifically super-critical water reactors.

Related studies will also refine chemistry needed to control corrosion in boilers used in Canada’s oil sands and methods for making new materials for advanced electrical batteries.

Says senior research associate Jenny Cox: “We’re one of the few labs in Canada and the world that has the ability to make these kinds of measurements under the temperature and pressure conditions that exist in nuclear and geothermal systems.”