Materials for Energy, Mineral Resources and the Environment

This class of materials includes those employed in the generation or storage of energy, as well as those derived from the earth or other planets. Nineteen research groups, representing the Departments of Chemical & Biochemical Engineering, Chemistry, Earth Science, and Mechanical & Materials Engineering engage in focused research ranging from the study of extra-terrestrial materials and metal-organic frameworks for gas storage and capture, to ensuring the safety and longevity of metallic containers for the permanent disposal of nuclear fuel waste and the development of nanomaterials for clean energy.


Hamidreza Abdolvand

Spencer Engineering Building, Rm 3077
519-661-2111 ext 88016
Computational and experimental solid mechanics, crystal plasticity, finite element, synchrotron and electron diffraction and imaging techniques.

Dr. Abdolvand’s research focuses on the development and linking of different numerical methods to advanced diffraction and image-based experimental techniques. His research seeks to explain the effects of various environments on the performance and integrity of metallic and non-metallic composite materials. He runs the multi-scale deformation lab, where graduate students work on the deformation of materials across length and time scales.

Nigel Blamey

Biological and Geological Sciences Building, Rm 1000D
519-661-2111 ext 85246
Earth science, quantitative fluid inclusion gas analysis, mass spectrometry.

Nigel Blamey is a geochemist who specializes in quantitative fluid inclusion gas analysis by mass spectrometry with applications to many aspects of earth science. His principle tool is a custom-built mass spectrometer system that analyses minute quantities of fluid inclusion volatiles including: H2, He, CH4, H2O, N2, O2, H2S, Ar, CO2, and SO2. Although much of the fluid inclusion gas analysis was pioneered by David Norman, it wasn't until 2000 when he and Blamey developed the interpretation as an exploration tool for the geothermal industry. It is equally applicable to the study of many hydrothermal ore deposits. Blamey has analyzed samples from several geothermal systems, four gold settings, epithermal Au-Ag, porphyry Cu and Mo, MVTs, black smokers, pegmatites, metamorphic veins, emeralds, iron ore, halites, carbonatites, diagenetic carbonates, desert carbonates, speleothems, amber, Libyan desert glass, fulgurites, impact craters, meteorites, and man-made materials. Gas analysis may be used to discriminate fluid sources (magmatic, meteoric, basinal), identify processes (boiling, condensational, mixing, equilibrium), constrain redox, correct isochors, apply gas geothermometry, and provide the gas concentrations for fluid-rock equilibria modeling.

Audrey Bouvier

Biological and Geological Sciences Building, Rm. 1040
519.661.2111 x 88516
Petrology, isotope geochemistry and cosmochemistry of planetary materials.

Dr. Bouvier is a Tier II CRC in Planetary Materials in the Department of Earth Sciences at Western University. She studies the chemistry of geological and extra-terrestrial materials using microbeam techniques for sample characterization and multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (MC-ICPMS) to conduct high-precision isotopic analysis of trace metals (e.g., Pb, U, REE, Hf, Mg). She directs the GEOMETRIC trace metal chemistry laboratory in the Biotron which creates a new integrative research and training facility that permits the development of innovative analytical tools such as new isotopic systems for tracing the formation of mineral assemblages and deciphering the timescales of geological events. These methods can be further developed and applied to a wide range of disciplines including environmental sciences, mineral exploration, medical sciences, and forensics.

Roberta Flemming

Biological and Geological Sciences Building, Rm. 0172
519 661-2111 ext 83143
Planetary materials.
Dr. Roberta Flemming is an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences, and Director of the Powder X-ray diffraction (pXRD) and micro X-ray diffraction (μXRD) Facility (since 2001). She specializes in Earth and planetary mineralogy, studying mineral structure and cation ordering, and as functions of pressure, temperature and composition. She also measures/calibrates strain and strain-related mosaicity in minerals which have undergone tectonic deformation or have been shocked by meteorite impact. She studies minerals from the Earth’s mantle and a variety of meteorites (e.g., chondrites, achondrites, martians), as well as synthetic analogues. Minerals of interest include spinel-group minerals, olivine, clinopyroxene, kimberlite indicator minerals (e.g., garnet), and diamond. She collaborates to study natural glasses, clay minerals and natural zeolites.

Yining Huang

Chemistry Building, Rm. 17
519 661-2111 ext 86384
Characterization of metal-organic frameworks used for capture and storage of CO2; zeolite and related materials used in petroleum industry. 

Zeolites and related molecule sieves are widely used in industry in ion-exchange, gas separation and catalysis. Dr. Huang’s research is centered on (1) the host-guest interaction in zeolitic systems and (2) the crystallization of nanoporous materials under hydrothermal, dry gel conversion and ionothermal conditions. Metal-organic frameworks are a new type of porous materials and they have shown tremendous potential for gas storage and capture. His recent work is focused on the characterization of these new materials by solid-state NMR spectroscopy.

Dazhi Jiang

Biological and Geological Sciences Building, Rm. 0176
519 661-2111 ext 83192
Structures and fabrics in Earth’s crust and mantle, Multiscale simulation of fabric development in Earth materials; Tectonic evolution of orogenic belts.

Dr. Jiang’s research interest lies primarily in using structures and fabrics preserved in Earth’s crust and mantle, observed on small scales such as in field rock exposures, in hand samples, and under microscopes, to unravel large-scale tectonic deformation processes. He integrates fieldwork, laboratory microstructural and texture analysis, and numerical modeling in his research.  He has developed a self-consistent micromechanical approach for modeling multi-scale fabric development during the deformation of the heterogeneous Earth’s lithosphere. The approach provides a rigorous link between structural geology and tectonics.

Robert Klassen

Spencer Engineering Building, Rm 3075
519 661-2111 x88323
Effect of ion and neutron irradiation on the mechanical properties of materials, length-scale dependence of the plasticity of metals. 

Dr. Klassen's research is directed to studying the mechanisms of time-dependent plastic deformation that operate in small volumes of pure metals and alloys. These studies are performed with either nano-indentation or micro-pillar compression testing and focus on establishing relationships between the underlying deformation mechanisms and microstructural features.

Robert Linnen

Biological and Geological Sciences Building, Rm. 100B
519 661-2111 ext 89207
Magmatic-Hydrothermal systems and the behaviour of metals at high temperature-pressure conditions.

Research by Dr. Linnen involves experimental and field-based studies on the behaviour of metals in high temperature-pressure silicate melts and aqueous fluids. Field-based studies establish the parameters that control metal enrichment in mineral deposits. Parallel to this experimental work includes determining the solubilities and stabilities of metals and minerals in silicate melts and the partitioning of metals between, silicate melts, aqueous fluids and minerals

Fred Longstaffe

Biological and Geological Sciences Building, Rm. 1023
Stable isotope science across the atmosphere-hydrosphere-biosphere-lithosphere (soil, sediment, rock) continuum (Earth-Systems Science), stable isotope and biomarker proxies for paleoclimate reconstruction in continental and lacustrine systems, and stable isotope systematics of Pleistocene and Holocene ecosystems and associated megafauna.

Dr. Longstaffe is a Distinguished University Professor and Canada Research Chair in Stable Isotope Science at the University of Western Ontario, where he is a member of the Department of Earth Sciences, cross-appointed in Anthropology, Biology and Geography, and Director of the multidisciplinary Laboratory for Stable Isotope Science (LSIS). He is an “Earth Systems Science” researcher. Presently, Fred’s research time is divided between climate change, past and present (“Back to the Future”), and clay mineral science (“Clay Pod”). The Back to the Future team tracks past environmental and climate change in North America as a bellwether for the future. Plants, animals and people that populated the changing landscape as ice from the last glacial period retreated left a record of their environment that is captured by the stable isotope compositions of plant and animal remains. The Clay Pod investigates the isotopic composition of clay minerals and associated bound and mobile pore fluids. The goal is to understand how clay-water interactions affect the isotopic signatures of both phases, and hence the use of O- and H-isotope tracers for fluid movement in the subsurface.

Philip McCausland

Biological and Geological Sciences Building, Rm. 0187 
519 661-2111 ext 88008 
Petrophysics, magnetism and meteoritics.

Dr. Phil McCausland is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences and Curator of the Western Meteorite Collection. His research is primarily on: 1) the physical properties and mineralogy of meteorites, with an emphasis on shock metamorphism, magnetism and cosmic ray exposure; 2) the magnetic mineral recorders in natural materials; and, 3) the application of paleomagnetism in rocks and minerals as a recorder of the Earth’s geomagnetic field history, tectonic processes and global paleogeography.

Stewart McIntyre

Chemistry Building, Rm. 25
519 642-2230
Methods for improved analysis of the microstructure of materials; Laue diffraction, XRD, elastic and plastic deformation, XPS, material surfaces.

Dr. McIntyre's research is concentrated on the improvement of microscopic X ray diffraction techniques to understand microscopic deformation processes in metals and ceramics; this includes the role of dislocations and grain boundaries in focusing such forces. As well, he is exploring methods for imaging and mapping of polyphases in the above materials. Improvement of such techniques requires much faster high-performance computing processes and more efficient means for transfer of massive blocks of experimental data. Dr. McIntyre also has a continuing interest in the interpretation of photoelectron spectra for use in understanding the surface chemistry of transition metals and their oxides.

Desmond Moser

Biological and Geological Sciences Building, Rm. 1070
519 661-2111 ext 84214
Micro- to nano-scale deformation and chemical structure of materials, geochronology of planetary and resource evolution, EBSD, CL, STEM, EDS and WDS. 

Dr. Moser directs the Zircon and Accessory Phase Laboratory (ZAPLab) which is an electron nanobeam facility ( for determining the deformation and chemical structure of materials down to the nanoscale. Moser’s group is expert in the application of Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD), Cathodoluminescence (CL) and X-ray spectroscopy (EDS/WDS) techniques to micro minerals used for isotopic dating of earth, solar system and resource-forming events. Collaborative work is resulting in equal success in the analysis of ores, environmental and manufactured bio/materials. 

James Noel

Chemistry Building, Rm 20
519-661-2111 ext 88029
Electrochemistry and corrosion.

The Noël group employs innovative, multidisciplinary approaches to solving problems that straddle the boundaries of chemistry, physics, earth sciences, metallurgy, and materials science, especially those related to materials electrochemistry and corrosion/degradation. This often requires designing and constructing specialized apparatus for novel experiments or extreme environments, performing high resolution surface analyses and precise measurements of fundamental physical chemical quantities by electrochemical and other appropriate means, and detailed data analysis, fitting, and computer modeling. Much of the group’s work is related to ensuring the safety and longevity of metallic containers for the permanent disposal of nuclear fuel waste.

Sohrab Rohani

Thompson Engineering Building, Rm. 457
519-661-4116 (on campus ext 84116)
CO2 adsorption, Cold temperature CO oxidation, Magnetic nano-aggregates for drug delivery, ZIF loaded TiO2 nanotube arrays for water detoxification.

Among the current research projects conducted by Dr. Rohani’s group are the use of magnetic nano-aggregates for controlled drug delivery, synthesis and modification of TiO2nanoparticles and highly ordered nanotube arrays for water splitting, solar cells and air/water detoxification.  In addition, a series of metal organic zeolitic-like framework nano-materials (MOF) are being synthesized for CO2, NOx and SOx adsorption, cold temperature oxidation, and hydrogen storage for fuel cells. 

Olge Semenikhin

Chemistry Building, Rm. 067
519 661-2111 ext 82858
Organic solar cells, organic conjugated polymers, organic semiconductors; organic nanostructured materials; energy storage materials.

Dr. Semenikhin’s research is focused on the development of new materials and approaches for energy conversion and storage. Particular areas of interests are organic solar cells, organic semiconductors, nanoscale modification of materials, materials for electrochemical energy storage.

Sean Shieh

Biology & Geological Science Building, Rm. 1066
519 661-2111 ext 82467
synthesis of novel material using diamond-anvil cell and laser-heating method; stress and elasticity study on strong and superhard materials; high pressure and high-temperature behaviour of materials (fluid, ceramics, and metals).

Dr. Shieh is an expert in the characterization and investigation of materials under extreme conditions of pressures and temperatures using micro-Raman, infrared, synchrotron x-ray diffraction and synchrotron x-ray spectroscopy. The sample size can range from nanometer to micron and in the form of liquid or solid. Carbon and hydrogen-based materials are particularly interesting.

David Shoesmith

ChB 18
Surface Science Western, 999 Collip Circle, Western Research Park
519 661-2111 ext. 86366 and 86154
Electrochemistry of materials; corrosion science and engineering; development and application of surface analytical techniques.

Research in the Shoesmith laboratory is focussed on the electrochemistry and corrosion science of metal and ceramic oxide systems with a primary emphasis on industrial and environmental applications. Experimentally, the primary goal is to understand the mechanisms and determine the kinetics of a range of reactions involved in surface processes. Based on these fundamental studies, computational models are then developed to describe the behaviour of complex material systems in specific industrial/environmental environments. Presently, these methodologies are being applied in the following areas: (i) the development of nuclear waste containers and the degradation of nuclear waste forms; (ii) the evolution of corrosion conditions on gas transmission pipelines; (iii) the application of light metals in automobile manufacturing; (iv) the performance of in-reactor nuclear materials.      

Andy Sun

Spenser Engineering Building
519 661-2111 ext 87759
Nanomaterials, fuel cells, Li ion batteries, Li-Air batteries. 

Dr. Sun’s research is focused on nanomaterials for clean energy. The scope of Sun’s research ranges from fundamental science, to applied nanotechnology, to emerging engineering issues - with a unifying theme centered upon development and application of novel nanomaterials for energy systems and devices. Specifically, his research activities are currently concentrated on developing various approaches to synthesize low-dimensional nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes, graphene, semiconducting and metal nanowires, nanoparticles, thin films and their composites as well as exploring their applications as electrochemical electrodes for energy conversion and storage including fuel cells, Li-ion batteries and Li-Air batteries. 

Tony Withers

Biology & Geological Science Building, Rm. 1018
519 661-2111x 88627
High pressure, high temperature experiments; infrared spectroscopy; secondary ion mass spectrometry.

Dr. Withers makes rocks and minerals in the lab. He uses vibrational spectroscopy together with ion beam techniques for characterization and quantitative analysis of light elements in minerals, glasses and fluids. The aim of his research is to understand how volatile elements are stored, recycled and degassed from planets, and to explore the globally significant influences of these elements on the physical properties and dynamics of planetary interiors.

Clara Wren

Chemistry Building, Rm. 016
519 661-2111 ext 86339
corrosion of nuclear reactor materials, radiation-induced metal oxide nanoparticles and oxide films.

Gamma-irradiation creates unique reactive environments that can alter the electric potential field at interfaces and thereby influence mass and charge transfer across phase boundaries. Dr. Wren’s research uses a judicious combination of gamma-irradiation and aqueous conditions to achieve tailored formation of (1) uniform-sized transition metal oxide nanoparticles, (2) very uniform and compact oxide films, and (3) micelles in IL/water systems. Dr. Wren’s research involves both experiments and modelling in these areas to develop a fundamental understanding of interfacial processes.