University of Waterloo older research articles from Innovation Toronto
- NSA pursues quantum technology
- Inspiring: Kik Founder Donates $1M To Kickstart University of Waterloo Seed Fund
- Forearm Gestures Remotely Control Computers and Drones
- Algorithm Finds Best Routes for One-Way Car Sharing
- Global warming caused by CFCs, not carbon dioxide, study says
- Quantum Teleportation in Space Explored as Message Encryption Solution
- Start-Ups Look to the Crowd
The main campus is located on 404 hectares (1,000 acres) of land in Uptown Waterloo, adjacent to Waterloo Park. The university offers a wide variety of academic programs, which is administered by six faculties and ten faculty-based schools. The university also operates four satellite campuses and four affiliated university colleges. Waterloo is a member of the U15, a group of research-intensive universities in Canada.
The university traces its origins to 1 July 1957 as the Waterloo College Associate Faculties, a semi-autonomous entity of Waterloo College. The entity had formally separated from Waterloo College in 1959, and was incorporated as a university. The university was established in order to fill the need of a program to train engineers and technicians for Canada’s growing postwar economy. Since then, the university had greatly expanded, adding a faculty of arts in 1960, and the College of Optometry of Ontario moving from Toronto in 1967.
The university is co-educational, and has nearly 26,000 undergraduate and over 4,000 post-graduate students. Alumni and former students of the university can be found all across Canada and in 141 countries around the world.
For the first time, a team including scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have used neutron beams to create holograms of large solid objects, revealing details about their interiors in ways that ordinary laser light-based visual holograms cannot.
Holograms—flat images that change depending on the viewer’s perspective, giving the sense that they are three-dimensional objects—owe their striking capability to what’s called an interference pattern. All matter, such as neutrons and photons of light, has the ability to act like rippling waves with peaks and valleys. Like a water wave hitting a gap between the two rocks, a wave can split up and then re-combine to create information-rich interference patterns(link is external).
An optical hologram is made by shining a laser at an object. Instead of merely photographing the light reflected from the object, a hologram is formed by recording how the reflected laser light waves interfere with each other. The resulting patterns, based on the waves’ phase differences(link is external), or relative positions of their peaks and valleys, contain far more information about an object’s appearance than a simple photo does, though they don’t generally tell us much about its hidden interior.
Hidden interiors, however, are just what neutron scientists explore. Neutrons are great at penetrating metals and many other solid things, making neutron beams useful for scientists who create a new substance and want to investigate its properties. But neutrons have limitations, too. They aren’t very good for creating visual images; neutron experiment data is usually expressed as graphs that would look at home in a high school algebra textbook. And this data typically tells them about how a substance is made on average—fine if they want to know broadly about an object built from a bunch of repeating structures like a crystal(link is external), but not so good if they want to know the details about one specific bit of it.
But what if we could have the best of both worlds? The research team has found a way.
The team’s previous work, performed at the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR), involved passing neutrons through a cylinder of aluminum that had a tiny “spiral staircase” carved into one of its circular faces. The cylinder’s shape imparted a twist to the neutron beam, but the team also noticed that the beam’s individual neutrons changed phase depending on what section of the cylinder they passed through: the thicker the section, the greater the phase shift. Eventually they realized this was essentially the information they needed to create holograms of objects’ innards, and they detail their method in their new paper.
The discovery won’t change anything about interstellar chess games, but it adds to the palette of techniques scientists have to explore solid materials. The team has shown that all it takes is a beam of neutrons and an interferometer—a detector that measures interference patterns—to create direct visual representations of an object and reveal details about specific points within it.
“Other techniques measure small features as well, only they are limited to measuring surface properties,” said team member Michael Huber of NIST’s Physical Measurement Laboratory. “This might be a more prudent technique for measuring small, 10-micron size structures and buried interfaces inside the bulk of the material.”
The research was a multi-institutional collaboration that included scientists from NIST and the Joint Quantum Institute(link is external), a research partnership of NIST and the University of Maryland, as well as North Carolina State University and Canada’s University of Waterloo.
Paper: D. Sarenac, M.G. Huber, B. Heacock, M. Arif, C.W. Clark, D.G. Cory, C.B. Shahi and D.A. Pushin. Holography with a neutron interferometer. Optics Express. DOI: 10.1364/OE.24.022528(link is external).
Neutron Holography Video
Though they aren’t holograms themselves, these animations demonstrate data that proved that neutron beams—rather than the usual laser light—can be used to create holograms of solid objects, in this case a tiny aluminum plate with a spiral carved into one of its faces.
The first animation illustrates what happens as you slowly move back from the plate, which dominates as the bright circle in the center. Near the end, fainter circles appear at top and bottom (created by interference patterns in the neutron beams) that usefully show the outlines of the plate’s spiral surface.
Animation of neutron scanning data, demonstrating that scientists can use neutron beams to create holograms instead of the usual laser light.
Passing the neutron beam through successively thicker portions of the spiral plate produces the interference data used to create the second animation below, whose “fork” grows greater numbers of tines at right as the plate’s thickness increases. Combining these data with other neutron measurements can produce 3-D holograms, which could make neutron scan results easier for scientists to interpret visually.
Animation of neutron scanning data, demonstrating that scientists can use neutron beams to create holograms instead of the usual laser light.
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
“The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits,” said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD candidate with IQC and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Waterloo. He and Thomas McConkey, PhD candidate from IQC and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Waterloo, are the two lead authors on the study that appears in the journal Physical Review Applied as an Editors’ Suggestion and is featured in Physics. “The technique connects classical electronics with quantum circuits, and is extendable far beyond current limits, from one to possibly a few thousand qubits.”
One promising implementation of a scalable quantum computing architecture uses a superconducting qubit, which is similar to the electronic circuits currently found in a classical computer, and is characterized by two states, 0 and 1. Quantum mechanics makes it possible to prepare the qubit in superposition states, meaning that the qubit can be in states 0 and 1 at the same time. To initialize the qubit in the 0 state, superconducting qubits are brought down to temperatures close to -273 degrees Celsius inside a cryostat, or dilution refrigerator.
To control and measure superconducting qubits, the researchers use microwave pulses. The pulses are typically sent from dedicated sources and pulse generators through a network of cables connecting the qubits in the cryostat’s cold environment to the room-temperature electronics. The network of cables required to access the qubits inside the cryostat is a complex infrastructure and until recently has presented a barrier to scaling the quantum computing architecture.
“All wire components in the quantum socket are specifically designed to operate at very low temperatures and perform well in the microwave range required to manipulate the qubits,” said Matteo Mariantoni, a faculty member at IQC and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Waterloo and senior author on the paper. “We have been able to use it to control superconducting devices, which is one of the many critical steps necessary for the development of extensible quantum computing technologies.”
Chemists at the University of Waterloo have developed a long-lasting zinc-ion battery that costs half the price of current lithium-ion batteries and could help enable communities to shift away from traditional power plants and into renewable solar and wind energy production.
Professor Linda Nazar and her colleagues from the Faculty of Science at Waterloo made the important discovery, which appears in the journal, Nature Energy.
The battery uses safe, non-flammable, non-toxic materials and a pH-neutral, water-based salt. It consists of a water-based electrolyte, a pillared vanadium oxide positive electrode and an inexpensive metallic zinc negative electrode. The battery generates electricity through a reversible process called intercalation, where positively-charged zinc ions are oxidized from the zinc metal negative electrode, travel through the electrolyte and insert between the layers of vanadium oxide nanosheets in the positive electrode. This drives the flow of electrons in the external circuit, creating an electrical current. The reverse process occurs on charge.
The cell represents the first demonstration of zinc ion intercalation in a solid state material that satisfies four vital criteria: high reversibility, rate and capacity and no zinc dendrite formation. It provides more than 1,000 cycles with 80 per cent capacity retention and an estimated energy density of 450 watt-hours per litre. Lithium-ion batteries also operate by intercalation—of lithium ions—but they typically use expensive, flammable, organic electrolytes.
“The worldwide demand for sustainable energy has triggered a search for a reliable, low-cost way to store it,” said Nazar, a Canada Research Chair in Solid State Energy Materials and a University Research Professor in the Department of Chemistry. “The aqueous zinc-ion battery we’ve developed is ideal for this type of application because it’s relatively inexpensive and it’s inherently safe.”
The global market for energy storage is expected to grow to $25 billion in the next 10 years. The bonus for manufacturers is they can produce this zinc battery at low cost because its fabrication does not require special conditions, such as ultra-low humidity or the handling of flammable materials needed for lithium ion batteries.
“The focus used to be on minimizing size and weight for the portable electronics market and cars,” said Dipan Kundu, a postdoctoral fellow in Nazar’s lab and the paper’s first author. “Grid storage needs a different kind of battery and that’s given us license to look into different materials.”
Water in the electrolyte not only facilitates the movement of zinc ions, it also swells the space between the sheets, like tiers of a wedding cake, giving the zinc just enough room to enter and leave the positive structure as the battery cycles. The electrode material’s nano-scale dimensions and the battery’s high-conductivity aqueous electrolyte also improve its cycling life and response times.
Together with researchers at the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research in the U.S., Nazar’s team is also investigating multivalent ion intercalation batteries based on Mg2+ in non-aqueous electrolytes. They were the first to report highly reversible Mg cycling in the TiS2 thiospinel and layered sulfides, which represent the first new highly functional Mg insertion materials reported in more than 15 years. Their papers appeared in Energy & Environmental Science and ACS Energy Letters earlier this year.
Superconductivity could have implications for creating technologies like ultra-efficient power grids and magnetically levitating vehicles
Physicists at the have led an international team that has come closer to understanding the mystery of how superconductivity, an exotic state that allows electricity to be conducted with practically zero resistance, occurs in certain materials.
Physicists all over the world are on a quest to understand the secrets of superconductivity because of the exciting technological possibilities that could be realized if they could make it happen at closer to room temperatures. In conventional superconductivity, materials that are cooled to nearly absolute zero ( ?273.15 Celsius) exhibit the fantastic property of electrons pairing up and being able to conduct electricity with practically zero resistance. If superconductivity worked at higher temperatures, it could have implications for creating technologies such as ultra-efficient power grids, supercomputers and magnetically levitating vehicles.
The new findings from an international collaboration, led by Waterloo physicists David Hawthorn, Canada Research Chair Michel Gingras, doctoral student Andrew Achkar and post-doctoral student Zhihao Hao,present direct experimental evidence of what is known as electronic nematicity – when electron clouds snap into an aligned and directional order – in a particular type of high-temperature superconductor. The results, published in the prestigious journal Science, may eventually lead to a theory explaining why superconductivity occurs at higher temperatures in certain materials.
From gene mapping to space exploration, humanity continues to generate ever-larger sets of data — far more information than people can actually process, manage or understand.
Machine learning systems can help researchers deal with this ever-growing flood of information. Some of the most powerful of these analytical tools are based on a strange branch of geometry called topology, which deals with properties that stay the same even when something is bent and stretched every which way.
Such topological systems are especially useful for analyzing the connections in complex networks, such as the internal wiring of the brain, the U.S. power grid, or the global interconnections of the Internet. But even with the most powerful modern supercomputers, such problems remain daunting and impractical to solve. Now, a new approach that would use quantum computers to streamline these problems has been developed by researchers at MIT, the University of Waterloo, and the University of Southern California.
You’ve heard of the Internet of Things – the generic name given to all the various networked sensors, machines, devices and even buildings in the world – but most of those “things” stay in one place for the most part. The world is primed for an explosion of autonomous ambulatory devices, which led a team of engineers from the University of Waterloo in Canada to draft a conceptual framework for an “Internet of Drones.”
The authors of a paper on the concept (linked at the bottom of the page) lay out what is essentially a structure for how drone traffic could be managed. It combines elements of the current air traffic control system, cellular networks and the internet.
Researchers at the University of Waterloo have developed a revolutionary system for monitoring vital signs that could lead to improved detection and prevention of some cardiovascular issues, as well as greater independence for older adults.
Using patent-pending technology called Coded Hemodynamic Imaging, the device is the first portable system that monitors a patient’s blood flow at multiple arterial points simultaneously and without direct contact with the skin. It is ideal for assessing patients with painful burns, highly contagious diseases, or infants in neonatal intensive care whose tiny fingers make traditional monitoring difficult.
“Traditional systems in wide use now take one blood pulse reading at one spot on the body. This device acts like many virtual sensors that measure blood flow behaviour on various parts of the body. The device relays measurements from all of these pulse points to a computer for continuous monitoring,” said Robert Amelard, a PhD candidate in systems design engineering at Waterloo and recipient of the prestigious Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. “By way of comparison, think of measuring the traffic flow across an entire city rather than through one intersection.”
Researchers have developed a process to remove contaminants from oil sands wastewater using only sunlight and nanoparticles that is more effective and inexpensive than conventional treatment methods.
Zhongwei Chen, a chemical engineering professor at Waterloo, and a team of graduate students have created a low-cost battery using silicon that boosts the performance and life of lithium-ion batteries.
The Waterloo engineers found that silicon anode materials have a much higher capacity for lithium and are capable of producing batteries with almost 10 times more energy.
“Graphite has long been used to build the negative electrodes in lithium-ion batteries,” said Professor Chen, the Canada Research Chair in Advanced Materials for Clean Energy and a member of the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology and the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy.
The resulting increase and decrease in silicon volume forms cracks that reduce battery performance, create short circuits, and eventually cause the battery to stop operating.
For the millions of sufferers of dry eye syndrome, their only recourse to easing the painful condition is to use drug-laced eye drops three times a day.
The eye drops progressively deliver the right amount of drug-infused nanoparticles to the surface of the eyeball over a period of five days before the body absorbs them.
“You can’t tell the difference between these nanoparticle eye drops and water,” said Shengyan Liu, a PhD candidate at Waterloo’s Faculty of Engineering, who led the team of researchers from the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Centre for Contact Lens Research.
“There’s no irritation to the eye.” Dry eye syndrome is a more common ailment for people over the age of 50 and may eventually lead to eye damage.
New drug delivery method targets cancer cells – not the entire body – and limits chemotherapy side effects
Now, researchers are developing a better delivery method by encapsulating the drugs in nanoballoons – which are tiny modified liposomes that, upon being struck by a red laser, pop open and deliver concentrated doses of medicine.
Because the nanoballoons encapsulate the anti-cancer drugs, they diminish the drugs’ interaction with healthy bodily systems.
“The nanoballoon is a submarine. The drug is the cargo. We use a laser to open the submarine door which releases the drug. We close the door by turning the laser off. We then retrieve the submarine as it circulates through the bloodstream.” Lovell will continue fundamental studies to better understand why the treatment works so well in destroying tumors in mice, and to optimize the process.