Creating Sustainable Materials for the Future

Creating Sustainable Materials for the Future is a transdisciplinary research programme that focuses on the design, development, evaluation and use of safe and sustainable materials (i.e., functional materials and molecules) to meet societal needs and help address the Grand Challenges of the 21st Century.

Creating Sustainable Materials for the future

The ability to make new materials and molecules is central to economic prosperity and social well-being.  The core of “clean tech” - biomaterials, catalysts, energy storage materials, electronic and photonic materials, lightweight structural materials, organic electronic materials, polymers and polymer composites - have immense potential to contribute to a range of Sustainable Development Goals (e.g., clean water, clean energy, food security, resilient urban infrastructure, and human welfare). Despite great promise, the explosive and unchecked growth of emerging material and molecules, as well as their entry into markets, has led to major challenges.  There are heightened social and regulatory concerns about the risks associated with these new materials with ample evidence that both intentionally produced materials in commerce, as well as unintended chemical by-products, are eroding the fabric and resilience of our ecosystems and humanity.  There is also a realization by the business community that is increasingly aware that toxic risks associated with new materials may eventually become business risks.  

Furthermore, there are disciplinary gaps that further exacerbate the dilemma.  Scientists and engineers currently working on novel functional materials and molecules have received vastly disconnected training, often limited to knowledge on one “moment” in their life-cycle, and on materials applications, without risks considerations.  These groups – focused on design and development - are often always disconnected from those with skills to assess human and ecosystem health risks as well as the social sciences community that can advise on stakeholder concerns and needs.   

Our vision is to establish a transdisciplinary research programme at McGill focussing on the design, development, evaluation, and use of sustainable materials (i.e., functional materials and molecules) to help address grand challenges of the 21st century.  To achieve this vision, the MSSI Sustainable Materials group will coalesce activities into the following mutually reinforcing domains: 

  1. To develop de novo function-driven materials and molecules that meet pressing societal needs [benign by design]; 
  2. To identify, characterize, and assess risks associated with emerging materials and molecules – at the level of design and synthesis - with respect to human and ecosystem health [21st-century risk assessment];  
  3. To understand and inform government and business policy that promotes responsible – rather than regrettable – stakeholder adoption and catalyzes the commercialization and scaling of sustainable materials while reducing extant risks to acceptable levels [stakeholder-driven].

Nil Basu

Dr. Nil Basu holds a Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Environmental Health Sciences and is an Associate Professor at McGill University.  His group is based in the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences where he holds appointments in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Department of Natural Resource Sciences, School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, and School of the Environment.  Prior to joining McGill Dr. Basu spent six years on Faculty at the University of Michigan School of Public Health (Ann Arbor, USA) and he is currently an Adjunct Professor at the University of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences. The goal of Dr. Basu's research is to take an ecosystem approach to community, occupational, and environmental health whereby evidence is collected, scrutinized, and compared from both humans and ecological organisms.


George Demopoulos

Dr. George P. Demopoulos is presently Gerald G. Hatch Chair Professor of Materials Engineering and serves as Chair of the Department of Mining and Materials Engineering. His research is in the area of aqueous solution processing of inorganic materials spanning from hydrometallurgical extraction to advanced environmental and energy material applications. For his lifetime research contributions, he was recently selected to receive the 2017 Metallurgy & Materials Society Research Excellence Award. Over the last 8 years, he has worked on the synthesis and fabrication of nanostructured electrodes for sensitized solar cells (DSC) and lithium-ion batteries (LIB). This work has led to the development of a new aqueous synthesis process of nano-TiO2 and associated novel paste formulation or electrophoretic deposition (EPD) protocols that provide low cost and green fabrication routes for mesoporous electrode films. Through collaboration with Hydro-Québec, Demopoulos is developing next generation Li-ion battery materials.


Audrey Moores

Audrey Moores is an Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Green Chemistry. She was for 4 years the co-associate director of the Center for Green Chemistry and Catalysis and acts as scientific director in the board of GreenCenter Canada, an Ontario-based tech transfer company. She received a Science Communication Fellowship for Green Chemistry in 2011 and CNC-IUPAC travel award in 2016. She is a leading expert in the field of catalysis using metal, metal oxide and biomass-based nanomaterials, with a special emphasis on sustainable processes and use of earth abundant starting materials.


Videos and Photos

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LTO-Rotating Lithium


M. Kaushik, K. Basu, C. Benoit, C.M. Cirtiu, H. Vali, A. Moores,* "Cellulose Nanocrystals as chiral inducers: Enantioselective catalysis and Transmission Electron Microscopy 3D Characterization". J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2015 137 (19), 6124–6127 [Link]

M. J. Rak, N. K. Saadé, T. Friščić, A. Moores*, “Mechanochemical Synthesis of Ultrasmall Monodisperse Amine-Stabilized Gold Nanoparticles with Controllable Size”, Green Chem., 2014,16 (1), 86-89. [Link]

R. Hudson, G. Hamasaka, T. Osako Y.Y.A. Yamada, C.J. Li, Y. Uozumi,* A. Moores,* “Highly Efficient Iron(0) Nanoparticle-Catalyzed Hydrogenation in Water in Flow”, Green Chem., 2013, 15, 2141-2148. [Link]

Cazabon D, Fobil JN, Essegbey G, Basu N. Structured Identification of Response Options to Address Environmental Health Risks at the Agbogbloshie Electronic Waste Site. Integr Environ Assess Manag. 2017 Jul 25. doi: 10.1002/ieam.1964. [Link]

Basu N, Renne EP, Long RN. An Integrated Assessment Approach to Address Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining in Ghana. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2015 Sep 17;12(9):11683-98. doi: 10.3390/ijerph120911683. PubMed PMID: 26393627; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4586700. [Link]

Arini A, Mittal K, Dornbos P, Head J, Rutkiewicz J, Basu N. A cell-free testing platform to screen chemicals of potential neurotoxic concern across twenty vertebrate species. Environ Toxicol Chem. 2017 Jun 8. doi:10.1002/etc.3880. [Link]

Arini A, Mittal K, Dornbos P, Head J, Rutkiewicz J, Basu N. A cell-free testing platform to screen chemicals of potential neurotoxic concern across twenty vertebrate species. Environ Toxicol Chem. 2017 Jun 8. doi:10.1002/etc.3880. [Link]

Hsien-Chieh Chiu, Xia Lu, Jigang Zhou, Lin Gu, Joel Reid, Raynald Gauvin, Karim Zaghib and George P. Demopoulos* Capacity Fade Mechanism of Li4Ti5O12 Nanosheet Anode, Adv. Energy Mat., 2017, 7, 1601825.;doi:10.1002/aenm.201601825. [Link]

Andrea Paolella, Cyril Faure, Giovanni Bertoni, Sergio Marras, Mirko Prato, Pierre Hovington, Abdelbast Guerfi, Basile Commarieu, Zhuoran Wang, Chandramohan George, Zimin Feng, George P. Demopoulos*, Michel Armand and Karim Zaghib. Light-assisted delithiation of LiFePO4 towards photo-rechargeable Li-ion batteries, Nature Communications 8, Article number: 14643 (2017). [Link]

M. J. Sussman, N. Brodusch, R. Gauvin, and G.P. Demopoulos*. Engineering 3-D Li-Ion Electrodes with Enhanced Charge Storage Properties based on Solution-Processed and Sintered Anatase-Carbon Mesoporous Structures, ACS Sust. Chem. Eng. 2015, 3 (2), 334–339. [Link]