Chemistry professors Simon Rondeau-Gagné, Tricia Carmichael, and John TrantChemistry professors Simon Rondeau-Gagné, Tricia Carmichael, and John Trant will head up a new Functional Organic Materials Research Centre.

Chemistry research centre to build on strengths in organic materials

Three researchers will head up a new Functional Organic Materials Research Centre with grants totaling $700,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Ontario Research Fund and contributions from industry partners.

The centre will allow chemistry and biochemistry professors Tricia Carmichael, John Trant, and Simon Rondeau-Gagné to expand on their current research into designing and synthesizing new organic materials to create wearable electronics, stretchable transistors, and highly specified drug delivery methods.

“This supports the infrastructure we already have in place, and provides new and essential instrumentation that will bolster our ability to do leading edge research,” says Dr. Trant.

Dr. Carmichael is a leader in stretchable electronic devices. This centre will give her new tools to characterize electrically functional materials and devices for stretchable and wearable electronics applications, and she says this new infrastructure will create a world-class interdisciplinary facility.

“The research we can now pursue will lead to new innovative materials for use in the rapidly growing wearable electronics market, ‘smart’ drug-delivery technologies and biomedical devices, as well as new self-healing materials,” says Carmichael.

Synthetic chemist Trant investigates triggerable drug delivery devices to help fight cancer and certain autoimmune diseases. He says this infrastructure is necessary to move forward on this research, which includes designing chemotherapy drug delivery methods that would target cancer cells and avoid healthy cells.

“I will get a custom-built peptide synthesizer — which is essentially a robot that makes peptides,” says Trant. “This made-to-order robot will be designed specifically to work with unnatural, high-value amino acids and allow ready recovery of them and will be the first of its type in the world.”

Dr. Rondeau-Gagne’s lab uses materials to build new types of transistors needed for innovative bio-electronics. He requires specialized tools to measure difficult-to-define polymers.

“We are designing the centre to be able to create new biomaterials and polymers to go from design, to preparation at large scale, and get to the final application in electronics,” says Rondeau-Gagné.

“The centre is the connection between all our capabilities and this is about delivering innovative, final applications with state-of-the-art materials. It is why we call it functional materials, because it won’t give us just the capabilities of working with our research program, but also to expand and really get that materials expertise.”

Dean of science Chris Houser says with recent strategic research hires, the University of Windsor has attained a critical mass of researchers focusing on organic materials, which makes it one of the strongest departments in Canada in this field. Together with this new research centre, they can start training the next generation of materials scientists.

“This builds momentum with research, but with Science UWindsor’s commitment to undergraduate training, we are also going to have undergrads working with this state-of-the-art equipment so that when they graduate, they will have worked with the absolute top line in equipment and materials science methods,” says Dr. Houser.

“This also makes us highly competitive, with researchers around the province, the country, and even from Michigan, wanting to come and use this equipment.”

The centre will be housed in the Faculty of Science’s new research facility and will be divided into two major biomaterials and bioelectronics platforms, and includes advanced instrumentation such as a custom-built peptide synthesizer, an ultra-high-temperature gel permeation chromatography system, and a cutting-edge transistor fabrication station.

Sara Elliott