Lambton College grad working on cutting edge biomass research projects

If Sarnia is indeed on the path to help position Canada in achieving world-leading biomass innovation, then Cheryl Ebert will likely be helping steer the renewable ship.

The research technologist for Lambton College’s Advanced Materials Engineering Research (AMER) Laboratory is engaged in a lot of hush-hush projects.

One of the most modern and versatile facilities in Ontario, Ebert is part of a team overseeing a number of leading edge biomass research projects. And this 2010 graduate of the college’s three-year Instrumentation and Control Engineering Technology program is making waves in this innovative and rapidly expanding field.

At the 61st Annual Canadian Chemical Engineering Conference this fall in London, Ont., Ebert was recognized for her work in the field and named top presenter out of 12 speakers in her technical session tabbed, “Biofuels — Ethanol and Beyond.”

Her 20-minute session documenting how Lambton’s lab research has led to instrumentation improvements for biomass processing outshone other presentations by a list of notable speakers. Some had their PhDs, while others were noted university professors. The honour also came with a $1,500 cheque.

“It was an overwhelming experience. I tackled one of my biggest fears, public speaking, and it worked out better than I could have hoped.”

The improvements she discussed were developed in the college’s research lab, which is located in the darkened bowels of the college. A fitting locale for the guarded industrial testing that takes place within its walls.

The AMER Laboratory was the brainchild of Dr. Kim Choo, the principal researcher who manages the staff and projects. The lab is capable of performing research in advanced engineering materials product development.

Plastics, rubbers, biomass or chemicals can by fed into a piece of machinery known as an extruder.

They can be pelletized or rolled into sheets. This laboratory can be used for developing sustainable polymer composites and alternative energies as well as improving instrumentation and control applications.

Simply put, the laboratory is researching ways to better use biomass materials as a renewable energy source. The lab works very closely with local industry, Ebert says.

For her part, she’s helped design and build some of the lab’s major testing components, including the entire pumping system.

“It was months of tweaking different instruments,” she explains.

When the subject of just what experiments she’s up to, the normally affable and chatty Ebert turns stone-faced and quiet.

That’s because the technology and research is extremely competitive. However, Lambton College technology students have been given the opportunity to use the  research laboratory for their co-op training to experience the challenges of applied research.

“It is very exciting, to feel part of developing something that can help the industry. I get to design. I get to build and I get to test,” she says, as towels cover some sensitive equipment behind her.

“There’s a lot that happens in this lab. The work done here is certainly innovative.”

For more information about the Instrumentation and Control Energy Engineering Technology program at Lambton College, visit www.lambtoncollege.ca/ICET.

 

 

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