Green Innovations – The Sky’s the Limit

By Annabelle Wong, 2016 Symposium Coordinator for the GCI

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Every year, 80 billion gallons of fuels are consumed and 705 million tones of CO2 is produced by airplanes. Innovations in chemistry for applications like futuristic windowless airplanes being developed by the Centre for Process Innovation is one way to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions. [1,2]

It’s an exciting time of year again when the GCI hosts their annual Green Chemistry Symposium! I remember starting as a graduate student here at the University of Toronto just a year ago and had the wonderful opportunity of attending the 2015 symposium as a first-timer. And this year, I will be attending the annual event as the GCI Symposium Coordinator.

What does this blog post have to do with windowless planes you may ask? The theme of the this year’s symposium is “Innovations in Chemistry towards Sustainable Urban Living” which will focus on topics related to greener products and chemical processes associated with urbanization and modern technological challenges like sustainable aerospace materials. The symposium organizing committee has chosen this theme because it builds onto last year’s theme of “Green Chemistry Applied to Industry” since innovations are often related to commercialization of products and scaling up in a cost-effective, sustainable manner.

With increasing interest coming from other departments at U of T and outside of U of T, we decided to expand this year’s symposium to include a public keynote lecture by Dr. John Warner, one of the founders of Green Chemistry, and an exciting case study session on analyzing a chemical process led by Dr. Tom Enright from Xerox Research Centre of Canada. We also decided to expand beyond just chemistry to touch on some chemical or process engineering topics.

The idea to include participants outside of chemistry partially stemmed from my personal experience working as an intern at the Fuel Cell Division of Mercedes Benz Canada in Vancouver and BASF SE in Germany. I realized that for chemists in academia, research often just stops at the chemical laboratory. But when it comes to research and development of a product in hopes of bringing it to the “real world” modern daily living, you’ll most likely find yourself interacting with an interdisciplinary team of scientists,  chemical, materials, mechanical, electrical or process engineers, and financial managers to ensure that the chemistry is cost-effective, safe, and sustainable to scale up. What might be seen as a novel innovative chemical reaction that works incredibly well in the laboratory scale may possibly end up as a disaster when it’s scaled up.  I think that the professional development in academia is slightly lacking when it comes to educating us on bridging the gap between chemistry and engineering and am delighted to have invited Dr. Enright from XRCC to teach us how to make this connection.

We are also very honored to have experts from academia and industry to tell us about their innovations in chemistry and how they can help the modern society to be a sustainable one. Topics include sustainability in textiles, electrochromic windows, catalysis, aerospace materials, switchable materials, biofuels, crop protection, and sustainable scale-up processes! Here’s the schedule of the symposium:gci blog 3

To find out how innovations in chemistry can make our world more sustainable or how your own research can take flight as a scalable innovation, make sure to register here before the deadline on May 2, 2016! See you there!



[1] Centre for Process Innovation. Aerospace Windowless Aircraft – The Future Inspired by CPI. YouTube, (accessed April 27, 2016).

[2] 2014. The Centre for Process Innovation. (accessed April 27, 2016).