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Welcome to ONGEN
Research & Development

Background

Ongen is a research and development group working with a variety of industries and government agencies on novel use and reuse of regional resources to create new opportunities for economic development.

Our work includes use of waste off-gas heat and CO2 to produce microalgae for bioenergy and other commercially valuable bioproducts, repurposing on-site waste energy, automated mining, systems to protect drinking water supplies, in particular those impacted by blue-green algae, and bioprospecting for value added products such as natural antioxidants, antimicrobials and anticancer agents.

The team's work has been internationally recognized, including for several awards.

Research Award 2015
Team Award 2016
Sustainability Award 2017
Innovation Award 2019
Research
Team
Sustainability
Innovation

More details on our wide-range of active projects can be found below.

Projects

Please click on a picture for more detail about our work

 

Bioprospecting for unique species of microalgae

Roman baths Stress from extreme and fluctuating environmental conditions that microalgae in northern Canada endure makes them of interest in terms of potential beneficial protective biochemical compounds.

We have a unique sampling program that is collecting microalgae from a wide-range of water bodies that experience a variety of stresses. For example, microalgae growing in abandoned mine tailing ponds that are exposed to nutrient deficiency, high metal levels and/or low pH values.

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Green energy - biodiesel from microalgae

Roman hot spring baths contianing green algae In the push towards creating economies that encourage investment and growth in renewable energy, biodiesel from certain microalgae, microscopic green plants found "floating" in water,  is globally a major focus as a route to mass production of  biofuels.

Microalgae can capture solar energy 10 to 50 times more efficiently than terrestrial plants used to produce oils (as lipids). As a consequence microalgae produce significantly more feedstock per hectare, in the form of lipids, that can be subsequently converted into biodiesel.

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Utilizing industrial waste heat and CO2 for growing microalgae

Regions such as Northern Ontario can provide solutions to mass production of microalgae, even during extended periods of cold winter weather:

- large tracts of marginal or non-productive land to host microalgae production facilities, thereby avoiding the pitfalls associated with uptake of agriculture, forested or virgin land;

- large supplies of waste heat to allow all year round prodction;

- large volumes of CO2 to enhance microalgae production rates.

Looking for high lipid production We have as a consequence established a unique pilot facility that is an array of tanks for growing microalgae for biodiesel.

They are heated and fed with real industrial off-gas and can operate year-round, despite periods of extremely cold conditions.

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Recovery and reuse of waste heat in process water and gas streams

Industrial site We are interested in enhanced energy security and reduced fossil fuel dependence for industry through new on-site concepts to recover and reuse otherwise waste energy.

A major target is to tap into low-grade heat in various process water and gas streams on industrial sites.

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Novel in-line contactors to protect drinking water from blue-green algae toxins

Novel contactors for toxin destruction Environmental issues in water caused by harmful organic molecules have raised interest in their decomposition through photocatalytic oxidation reactions that combine UV and titanium dioxide (TiO2). A target of potential interest are the increasing incidences worldwide of toxin generating blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) blooms in freshwater bodies.

These are leading to more frequent advisories not to extract water for drinking, even in areas, such as Northern Canada,that previously were not affected. Cylindrospermopsin (CYN) is one of the common cyanobacterial toxins and targets protein and glutathione synthesis in hepatocytes, and may cause fever, diarrhea, hepatomegaly and kidney damage.

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New anti-microbial agents

Sampling for antimicrobial activity A focus of our work is microalgal production of compounds that exhibit antimicrobial activity against bacteria.

There is a continuous need to discover new antimicrobial agents and novel mechanisms of action due to development of resistance to antibiotics in current clinical use.

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Nutraceuticals

Identifying nutraceuticals In addition to optimizing biodiesel production from microalgae, to maximize opportunity and resource utilization we are also looking at co-production of other higher value chemicals from microalgae.

Algae, the only plants known to produce all eight amino acids essential to human health, can also generate nutraceuticals such as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, antibacterial and anticancer agents, as well as food supplements and beauty aid compounds.

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Automated mining

Automated mining The growing demand for increased production has resulted in the desire to develop deeper underground to extract more resources.

However, the mining process becomes less economically stable as the ventilation costs drastically increase while operating at large depths. This is leading to utilizing electric-power machinery instead of the traditional diesel machines to reduce emissions in the underground workplace, as well as automated equipment to improve productivity and provide economic stability for deep mine projects.

We are investigating the impact of automated and electric mining equipment on mine operations. The aim is to identify necessary modifications to optimize mine design and account for the cost and environmental drivers in the comparison. The goal is to determine the justification for an economic decision to design the industry partner’s future deep mine projects, with the intent to operate automated and electric-powered machinery.

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Capturing CO2 from small volume sources

Generator Collaborative research and development is exploring environmental and economic, benefits from capturing and repurposing carbon dioxide (CO2) from relatively small volume sources.

An example is the exhaust CO2 emitted by stand-alone electricty generators, such as those that burn methane in landfill biogas to produce electricity. The goal is to capture the CO2 to promote growth of regional microalgae that can produce a revenue stream of high-value health beneficial natural compounds, such as omega3's, antioxidants and antibiotics.

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Sustainability performance benchmarking

Click on to view a demonstration of benchmarking We have developed the enviroIndex™, a sustainability performance index that measures and quantifies benchmarks using a easy to understand numerical scale.

The outcomes can be used to help enhance long-term sustainability and the bottom line. Sectors that we currently work in, include:
Events
Health Care
Communities
Manufacturing
Travel & Tourism
Administration Services

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