THE BLOG

What People (and Provinces) Can Do With Excess Energy

12/04/2013 11:23 EST | Updated 02/03/2014 05:59 EST

I've got a lot of energy. Be it at work or at home, I don't like to miss a beat.

It's this energy that fuels my passion for research and helps keep the pedals spinning on my bike during the commute to work.

And it's this drive that gets me a 'mad scientist' reputation at home. Which I should clarify is a questionable description and is definitely reserved for my daughter's use only.

My zest for life is something I hope will stay with me for many years to come. And with Ingenuity Lab fully operational, I certainly can't imagine things slowing down anytime soon. There is simply too much to discover and explore.

Alberta has a lot of energy, too.

In fact every year, our province generates billions of dollars in revenue from our signature natural resources. Alberta's energy sector is a major contributor to the nation's economic prosperity and a big reason why Canada has consistently ranked amongst the top 10 energy producers in the world. We truly are Canada's energy powerhouse.

But for those of us with abundant energy, the question always lingers: Will we be able to sustain our fast pace?

I know I'm getting older and that there will be a time when I'll have to exchange some of my more extreme pursuits with leisurely active living alternatives. Perhaps I'll trade rock climbing for crossword puzzles. In any case, when the time comes, I'll make the necessary changes to ensure that I don't burn out prematurely.

Alberta must do the same.

It is anticipated that in the next two decades, energy demands will rise by 35 per cent. This presents unique challenges in terms of industry vitality and environmental responsibility.

Currently, the energy sector contributes 90 per cent of Canada's carbon dioxide emissions, leaving us plenty of room for improvement.

At Ingenuity Lab, we are looking at innovative methods to reduce our carbon footprint and utilize wasted energy. By engineering one of the most common enzymatic cycles (the Calvin-cycle), with nanotechnology, we are creating a system which will enable us to sequester carbon dioxide into a variety of useful organic materials. By increasing the metabolic functionality of the system, these organic materials will be useful and abundant precursors for the metabolic synthesis of high-value chemical compounds.

It's unconventional but a sweet solution to a known environmental risk. Essentially, we are converting something that is currently considered waste into a marketable by-product used as feedstock by others. And that is good news for our communities, the economy and the environment.

Albertans have spent many decades, enjoying the perks of our abundant energy resources but we can do better. As our cities grow and the distance between neighbourhoods and heavy industry shrinks, the need for higher environmental and regulatory standards becomes clear. And so too does the role of unconventional nanotechnology solutions.