The National Research Council of Canada is proud to celebrate World Environment Day 2017. Today we reflect on the many ways we connect to nature through our research.
The NRC has been meeting Canada's greatest challenges with innovative solutions for a century. From protecting Canadian wheat in the early 1900s to flying the world's first commercial jet powered by 100% biofuel a hundred years later, we have worked across our country's natural landscapes from field, to sea, to sky.
Read through the stories below to learn about how we connect to nature through research and how we can continue to support a cleaner, greener future for Canada and the world.
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Stories from the last 100 years
Rust in the bread basket - Defending wheat for Canadian farmers
The battle against Wheat Rust, a crop disease once responsible for the loss of tens of millions of dollars' worth of wheat, was effectively won by an NRC-led effort to breed rust-resistant strains in the 1920s and 1930s.
From undrinkable to potable - Membrane technology for water purification
Human survival relies upon fresh water. The NRC collaborated with UCLA to make reverse osmosis commercially feasible with a technique (known as the Loeb-Sourirajan method) to purify water using membranes.
Snow state and the seven morphs - The world's snow classification system
Dry. Wet. New. Old. Dense. Granular… Snow descriptions vary widely. The NRC's groundbreaking snow studies and the resulting classiﬁcation system have supported decades of snow-related R&D around the world, affecting the design of roads, buildings and consumer products.
Moulin muse - Vertical turbine design for maximizing wind energy
Since the 1974 oil crisis, engineers have attempted to harness the power of wind. The NRC was the international leader in developing a distinctive vertical-axis turbine design, nicknamed the eggbeater because of its shape.
A driving force in green solutions - Contributions to transportation fuel cells
For decades, fuel cells held great promise as a clean, sustainable energy source for transportation. Since the late 1980s, the NRC's fuel cell research has contributed substantially to the global effort to produce marketable fuel cells for everyday use.
Beating pollution to a pulp - Engineering xylanase enzymes for the pulp and paper industry
Chlorine effectively whitens pulp and paper, but creates vast amounts of toxic waste. In turn, that chlorinated waste threatens the environment and human health. The NRC tailored a xylanase enzyme that greatly reduces both the pollution discharged by pulp mills and the cost of producing pulp.
Breaking new ground in Canada's North
In a world run largely by fossil fuels, the cost and environmental impact of fuel leaks and oil spills can be particularly severe for remote communities. And while remediation technologies have advanced over the years, deploying these technologies in Canada's northern region remains a daunting challenge.
Come swell or high water - Flood prevention and mitigation
Floods, Canada's most frequent and costly natural disasters, cause extensive losses for communities near rivers and oceans. Heavy rainfall, dam failures, storm surges, ice jams and rapid melting of snow mean that floods loom year-round. The NRC can simulate the effects of multiple dam break and flooding scenarios in order to improve emergency plans and determine the best escape routes during an actual crisis.
Developing natural rubber from dandelions
Russian dandelion has a number of important traits, including its resilience and ability to grow in multiple climates. Biomass gathered from its roots is well suited for mechanical extraction, producing a mixture that can be separated into high-quality product streams. Currently, NovaBioRubber grows Russian dandelion in British Columbia, Canada.
Sootloose - Cleaning the air with emission control technology
Most of Canada's 23 million vehicles release particulate pollution like soot particles containing black carbon. It matters because soot harms human health, increases smog and affects weather. The NRC improved the accuracy of measuring exhaust pollution by developing a technology to measure particulate emissions using a laser pulse.
Fishing in troubled waters - Sailing through nature's obstacle course
High winds, rough waters, tidal currents and an ever-narrowing entrance plague Shippagan Gully, the most direct route for fish harvesters sailing between the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Chaleur Bay, New Brunswick. The NRC's numerical modelling techniques informed engineering decisions on mitigating navigation risks for fishermen at Shippagan Gully.
Nature to the rescue - Oil bioremediation in the Arctic
Fuel spills in Canada's North are particularly damaging, expensive and tough to repair. Over the years the NRC has developed natural bioremediation techniques that can mitigate environmental contamination in harsh Canadian environments.
Ocean depths have been called the final frontiers on Earth. The extreme cold, pressure and darkness hampers deep-sea exploration. Built to withstand those harsh conditions, marine robots dive kilometres down to measure sound, temperature, magnetism, and other physical and chemical properties.
Environmentally friendly culvert gets a lift through IRAP's network of connections
Sometimes a fresh take on an old technology can make a big difference to the environment. Take culverts, for example. Enviro Span, a technology firm based in Lethbridge, Alberta, has designed a new modular culvert system to reduce the environmental impact of stream crossings.
The next 100 years
Alternative jet fuel takes flight - Biofuel advances propel a greener aviation industry
On average, 100,000 flights take off daily worldwide, despite airborne emissions being increasingly blamed for contributing to climate change. In 2012, the NRC achieved a major milestone for the aviation industry when it flew the first civil jet powered by 100 percent unblended biofuel.
Smarter homes and buildings
Intelligent homes, buildings and communities will revolutionize the way we live. Smart buildings will sense people, their comfort and security needs, and be able to adapt instantly. Artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things will move us from the age of the home computer to the age of the "computer home."
Mining the green economy
For Canada—rich in high quality deposits of lithium and graphite; expert in all aspects of mining; a stable investment climate; and a strong commitment to building a prosperous, low-carbon economy—this is an opportunity.
New benefits to building green
New ground-breaking research reveals that green buildings do more than reduce energy and increase real-estate value, they also have positive impacts on the employees working in them.
Genomics research in agriculture, environment, fisheries, forestry, and health
Unlike harmful microbes that develop resistance to antibiotics, microbes found in soil and water are essential to providing crops and wild vegetation with the building blocks they need to grow. This work will study how genomics research tools can be used to enhance soil and water monitoring, assessment, and rehabilitation.
Responding to climate change with upgraded building codes
Canadian buildings and infrastructure are being more and more challenged by the impacts of climate change and an increase in extreme weather events such as damaging floods and devastating high winds. Over the next five years, the NRC is upgrading codes, specifications, guidelines, and assessment tools to keep Canadians safe.
A "greener" Canada
The impact of greenhouse gas emissions has created a deep-seated trend to a "greener everything." Increasingly important will be the development of alternative and renewable energy sources and systems, as well as technologies to increase efficiency and safety in energy production, transportation and usage.