Enabling Technologies

Once in a while, a new technology completely revolutionizes the way we live our lives. It is hard to tell where that next big breakthrough will come from, but fostering the environment to hatch those big ideas is a key component to engineering a better future.

U of T Engineering researchers are making these breakthroughs every day, crossing disciplinary boundaries to collaborate on the next big technology. Each new innovation contributes to our world and to our quality of life, making things easier, more accessible and safer for the global community.

Learn more about some incredible projects from U of T engineers:

Robots for Society

Professor Goldie Nejat in the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering holds the Canada Research Chair in Robots for Society. Her lab is researching the development of intelligent assistive robots that can help find victims in disaster scenarios, improve the quality of patient-centered care and transform the way hospital wards and nursing homes function. Her research is helping Canada meet the challenges posed by an aging population – and keeping both the province and country at the forefront of the multi-billion-dollar personal and service robotics industry.

Her contributions in this area include the development of assistive technologies, including socially intelligent assistive robots to aid cognitive and physically impaired individuals with the activities of daily living. In particular, she and her students have developed a unique robot named Brian for healthcare applications. Brian is a human-like robot designed to remind, monitor, aid, stimulate and motivate elderly individuals suffering from dementia.

Building Better Batteries

Professor Keryn K. Lyan in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering is developing an energy storage device that is more powerful, smaller, lighter, safer and more flexible than a regular battery which can be used in such applications as the growing “wearable technology” industry.

Lian’s Flexible Energy and Electronics Laboratory is also working on combining the energy storage device with energy-generating solar cells to form a “self-powered” energy system.

Solar cells can’t store energy, so when the sun goes into hiding, the cells can’t generate more electricity. Lian’s battery can be attached to solar cells, so that when these cells capture energy from the sun, they can charge the battery.

The end result is an extremely clean, renewable source of energy with almost unlimited potential.

Lighting our Future

Professor Ted Sargent in The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering is leading a team of researchers, including graduate students Zhijun Ning and Oleksadr Voznyy, who are making breakthroughs in the field of solar-absorbing technologies.

From colloidal quantum dots – a family of solar-absorbing nanotechnologies – to their latest breakthrough, perovskite crystals, they are continually working to make our future brighter and more sustainable.

Using a new technique, researchers in The Sargent Group grew large, pure perovskite crystals and studied how electrons move through the material as light is converted to electricity. While the perovskite crystals were proficient at absorbing visible light, the colloidal quantum dots were better suited to the infrared spectrum. In future, stacking the complementary absorbent materials may boost efficiency across the board.