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This Week in Research: Navigating the commercialization pathway at Laurentian University

Innovative new technology developed by Dr. Zhibin Ye and his research team

Navigating the commercialization pathway at Laurentian University


Laurentian University has filed a provisional patent on an innovative new technology developed by Dr. Zhibin Ye and his research team in the Bharti School of Engineering.  Dr. Ye, a Canada Research Chair in Polymer Nanomaterials, has engineered a novel process for the production of carbon nanospheres, which are unique nanoscale carbon constructs that can only be measured using electron microscopes.  These carbon nanospheres (or CNSs) have superior properties for a number of industrial applications, particularly in the electrochemical energy storage (supercapacitor) and lithium-ion battery markets.

The invention was initially disclosed to the Office of Research Services (ORS) in late 2015 as Dr. Ye was preparing to document his findings in a journal article.  Dr. Ye advised ORS that he had developed a new process in the lab with Dr. Vimal Tiwari, a postdoctoral fellow, and  Zhe Chen, a graduate student.  A decision was made by Dr. Ye’s team to delay the submission of the article until an evaluation of the commercial potential could be undertaken and, if necessary, funding for the commercialization secured.  Following an initial patent search and publication review that did not identify any comparable technologies, funding was obtained from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to conduct a study of the market potential of the technology.  The overall conclusion from the analysis indicated a market need for a cost-efficient process to fill a growing demand for CNSs while meeting increasing environmental regulations that require manufacturers to decrease energy consumption and CO2 emissions.

Following the outcome of the market assessment, a provisional patent application was filed in the name of the university, identifying all three researchers as inventors; Dr. Ye’s article was submitted (and quickly accepted for publication) to a high impact journal; and a second funding application was submitted to NSERC to secure funding for further refinement of the technology into a commercially-viable process.  Laurentian was pleased to obtain letters of support from a number of manufacturers in the identified markets as well as GreenCentre Canada, a federally funded Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR) for green chemistry.
 
Dr. Ye and his team are delighted that the commercialization pathway undertaken has provided a mechanism by which both academic and economic benefits can be achieved.  His research is funded through the Canada Research Chair program, which places a high degree of importance on the dissemination of research results in order to have the greatest impact on society.  The full text of Dr. Ye’s discovery can be found by following this link.  For more information on how Laurentian University can help commercialize the results of your research, contact Gisele Roberts, Research Activities Manager, Intellectual Property and Partnerships at groberts@laurentian.ca.