Our green research success stories

As part of our climate change research at the NRC, our focus is on the deployment of clean technologies in Canadian businesses and communities.

2023

Improving efficiency in our aircraft

Test rig for the boundary layer ingestion research

As part of the NRC's mission to accelerate sustainable aviation, teams at the gas turbine and aerodynamics labs at the Aerospace Research Centre are working hard to evaluate the performance of a promising new technology in our mission towards sustainable aviation, known as boundary layer ingestion, or BLI. This tech can help increase propulsion efficiency, reduce aircraft fuel consumption and, in turn, reduce emissions during flight, which makes BLI an efficient energy-saving technology for hybrid propulsion systems.

Reducing plastic waste with eco-friendly food packaging

A picture of the lab area taken with a piece of the food packaging material held in front of the camera lens to show its high level of transparency.

Teams at the Automotive and Surface Transportation Research Centre's Advanced Manufacturing program have been collaborating with Winpak to develop an eco-friendly food packaging material. This transparent, multi-layer food packaging is based on an NRC-patented technology and composed of a unique plastic made entirely from renewable and compostable materials, including starch. This new technology is showing promise as a solution to global waste issues. The success of this project will help Canada meet its national priority of reducing food and plastic waste while advancing our circular bioeconomy.

New Platform and Challenge programs to focus on decarbonizing the construction sector

Highway infrastructure with travelling vehicles and a city skyline in the background

Our Construction Research Centre is addressing one of the biggest challenges facing Canada's construction sector: decarbonization. Together with academia, industry and governments, the NRC is applying its R&D expertise to support the development and deployment of low carbon construction solutions through its new Platform to Decarbonize the Construction Sector at Scale. As part of this, 2 new Challenge programs are also being developed to focus on supporting industry to develop low-carbon products, decision support tools, and services needed to decarbonize the built environment, as well as the digitalization and modernization of construction practices to enhance productivity.

Small particles to tackle big issues

An NRC researcher stands in front of a lab bench, placing a number of sample vials into a desktop analyzer.

Magnets containing rare earth elements are critical components for electric vehicle motors and are in increasing demand. However, their supply is at risk because only a limited number of countries produce them. Recycling end-of-life magnets has, therefore, become a critical alternative for countries like Canada that rely primarily on their import. Traditional recycling processes usually involve energy-intensive procedures and toxic chemicals that are costly and cause environmental pollution. The Automotive and Surface Transportation Research Centre and the Energy, Mining and Environment Research Centre are working with Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises to develop a novel approach that is faster, greener and more cost-effective. This approach involves direct recycling of end-of-life magnets into powders for 3D printing of new magnetic parts for electric vehicle motors and other applications.

Greener vessels for bluer oceans

An NRC electronics technologist stands at a computer on the bridge of the John Cabot ship and looks out at the open water.

The NRC is working together with the Canadian Coast Guard to better understand the operational profiles of select Coast Guard vehicles and their corresponding powering and fuel requirements. The collected baseline data will inform decision making for designing green vessels and selecting green machinery. The data will also be the foundation of a model for predicting fuel consumption that will provide real time guidance to navigators in support of greener operations. This initiative is funded by Canada's Greening Government Fund, which promotes and shares innovative approaches to reducing greenhouse gases in Canadian government operations.

Carbon capture, utilisation and storage technologies

Photo of roof ridge against blue sky.

The Nanotechnology Research Centre is leading a new project titled, "Advanced nanocomposite membranes for low-cost CO2 capture and conversion" in collaboration with the Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre, the Construction Research Centre, the University of Alberta and IBM Research.

This initiative aims to develop a robust composite membrane using different nanomaterials for CO2 capture and conversion, which could help pull CO2 out of the air and slow rising global temperatures.

Certified Reference Materials help build a sustainable food supply

Fields of rapeseed

People are increasingly embracing novel protein sources for various reasons, including reducing their carbon footprint. That's why experts from our Metrology Research Centre and our Sustainable Protein Production program are working in collaboration with Queen's University on new Certified Reference Materials (CRMs) for alternative protein sources.

You may have heard of plant-based food made from canola and pea plants. CRMs ensure these alternative sources of protein are standardized and safe to consume. In the Canadian Prairies, about 20 million tons of canola is grown annually. While known for its use in cooking, biofuel production and animal feed, canola is now being considered an alternative protein source for human consumption. The new canola meal reference material is the first member of our alternative protein sources CRMs to support consumer food safety and help build a sustainable food supply.

Mapping the way to a climate-resilient supply chain

Bird's eye view of railway tracks next to a body of water

he Canadian supply chain is highly dependent on rail freight transportation. Events related to climate change, such as flooding and wildfires, have become increasingly frequent and severe and are affecting the resiliency and efficiency of railway operations. To combat this, the Automotive and Surface Transportation Research Centre is developing a tool to map national railway risks so rail manufacturers can assess the different risks related to railway tracks and contribute to a more resilient rail transport supply chain.

Prioritizing clean air with Convair aircraft

View of a Convair aircraft wing equipped with sensors.

To better understand the impact of climate change, the Aerospace Research Centre is using the unique capabilities of the Convair 580 "flying laboratory" to conduct in-air research in environment and climate sciences. The aircraft's scientific instruments can support projects in numerous areas, including air quality and emissions research, sustainable aviation and atmospheric studies. This advanced aircraft makes it possible for researchers to measure air pollutants, another way the NRC is contributing to helping Canada meet its climate targets.

2022

Lowering our carbon footprint

Canada has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

To help meet this goal, the NRC's Construction Research Centre and Energy, Mining and Environment Research Centre lead the Low-carbon assets through life cycle assessment initiative, a collaboration between federal government departments, academia, non-government organizations, industry and low-carbon asset experts from across Canada.

The initiative aims to develop a science-based approach for supporting the selection of construction materials and designs that offer the lowest carbon footprint with the lowest total cost.

Reducing energy consumption with lighter vehicles

The Advanced Manufacturing program team is leading the Canadian Lightweight Initiative on Polymer Glazings.

Known as CLIP Glazings, this initiative gathers partners from industry across the transportation supply chain and the public sector to develop high performance polymers to replace conventional glazings for cars and buses, made from tempered or laminated glass.

The use of lighter and more durable material makes it possible to reduce the weight of vehicle glazings by around 50%, which improves energy efficiency for both combustion engine and electric vehicles.

Sustainable grown-in-Canada pulses

Pulses grown in Canada are considered sustainable, and assessing Canadian pulse processing methods to limit water use, improve energy efficiency and reduce negative impacts on the environment requires credible and representative data.

The NRC's Aquatic and Crop Resource Development Research Centre, in collaboration with the University of British Columbia, are creating a national life cycle inventory database, which will include pulse proteins like beans, lentils and peas. Pulse processing companies will help generate industry-level datasets and confidential sustainability assessments.

This database will enable life cycle analysis with the help of McGill University to identify sustainability gaps and process improvements to support both environmentalism and economic development.

Sustainable forest management

Sustainable forest management requires high-quality information on tree species, biomass and growth rates. The ability to do this is limited not by data, but by the ability to extract this information from very large, complex datasets.

The NRC's Digital Technologies Research Centre, through the Digital Health and Geospatial Analytics Cluster Support program is working on deep learning algorithms that can extract this information from a wide range of remote sensing and other geographic data. This work has the potential to improve forest management practices and measure the impacts of climate change.

The future of green transportation

24% of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions come from everyday transportation-related activities. The electrification of public transportation is an important step to meet national sustainability goals while targeting one of the largest sources of GHG emissions.

In collaboration with Transport Canada and the Toronto Transit Commission, the Automotive and Surface Transportation Research Centre is conducting North America's largest electric bus trials in the City of Toronto. This research brings Canada closer to a green public transit system.

2021

Adapting and building infrastructure for a changing climate

Since 2016, the NRC has undertaken the Climate-Resilient Buildings and Core Public Infrastructure (CRBCPI) Initiative, with $42.5 million in funding support from Infrastructure Canada. Over the past 5 years, the initiative has worked to develop decision-support tools such as national model codes, guides, standards, and climate design data, which will help ensure buildings and core public infrastructure are designed and built to withstand the effects of climate change in Canada. More information about the project outcomes to date are available on the CRBCPI webpage.

Developing a methane gas sensor to address climate change

Methane is responsible for 30% of the global rise in temperatures and for about 13% of Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing methane emissions will help combat climate change. Detection and measurement are essential to quantifying the current state and future reductions. Our experts from the Metrology Research Centre and from the Advanced Electronics and Photonics Research Centre have been developing laser-based technologies to detect greenhouse gases. The mid infrared region of the spectrum has sharp absorption peaks for many pollutants, and our researchers developed spectroscopic sensors that can detect the peaks associated with methane and quantify the concentration of methane with very high sensitivity.

Development of a production process for bioplastics

To help Canada reduce plastic waste and create business opportunities in the new sector of sustainable products, NRC experts in polymers developed formulations, prototypes and applications using a 100% bio-based and compostable polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA)-based resin produced by Bosk Bioproducts. This collaboration has enabled the company to manufacture entirely compostable bioplastics made from pulp and paper industry waste. The commercialization of Bosk's first line of products on a pre-industrial scale was announced in April 2021.

Improving the detection of microplastics in Canadian waters

Microplastics are everywhere, and although at times they can barely be seen with the naked eye, the threat they pose can't be ignored. Under the Innovative Solutions Canada (ISC) program, the NRC launched a challenge to address this threat. More specifically, Canadian companies are challenged to propose a solution that will enable researchers to better identify microplastic particles in our waters. Two companies received Phase 1 funding as a result of their proposal. If successful with their proposed solution, these companies could receive Phase 2 funding to develop a prototype. This challenge shows the positive impact of collaboration between the Government of Canada and industry on innovative technology.

Measuring ocean heating is key to tracking global warming

Ocean heating tracks the evolution of climate change. This knowledge is essential in improving climate change quantification and predictions. Ultra-accurate thermometry is required to monitor ocean temperature change, but measuring the temperature in oceans is quite challenging. Given its crucial importance in quantifying global warming and in predicting the future climate evolution, the monitoring of deep-ocean temperature changes can be enhanced by increasing the level of accuracy in its measurement. This is where the NRC's Metrology Research Centre can help to make sure the measurements are as accurate as possible.

Paving the way to carbon-neutral air travel for a more sustainable future

Aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions driving global climate change. The NRC's Metrology Research Centre is working on a pioneering study to investigate the impacts of sustainable aviation fuel on aircraft engine emissions and performance to reduce greenhouse gas and black carbon emissions. Using sustainable aviation fuels will result in significant life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions reductions. It will also have immediate impacts on non-CO2 emissions, such as black carbon, which are a large part of the total climate effects of aviation emissions.

Reducing carbon footprint of the digital economy through innovation

The Advanced Electronics and Photonics Research Centre develops novel components in support of the telecommunications industry's ever-increasing data rate requirements. This technology is the backbone of the digital economy where physical transactions are replaced by virtual ones, reducing the need for physical transport. Growing demands for data have dramatically increased power consumption in data centres. In response, the Centre is also developing a new generation of semiconductor laser technologies that allow the transport of data with less power, helping to decrease carbon emissions per transmitted bits.

Renewable marine energy

Since Canada has more than 200,000 kilometres of coastline and a vast network of rivers, the NRC's Ocean, Coastal and River Engineering Research Centre has been studying how to refine and quantify the country's extensive water resource opportunities. Once the most promising sites are identified and verified, extraction technologies such as tidal, river or wave-energy converters can be deployed to produce useful energy to power urban centres and remote communities. Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels will serve to reduce ocean acidification which will create a healthier ocean.