Western University supports Carbon Solutions to address climate change


This week, 12 Western University researchers presented their Carbon Solutions projects at an event held at the Amit Chakma Engineering Building. 

Carbon Solutions @ Western is a commitment from the University to fund research that aims to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and work towards a net-zero future.

“Carbon Solutions @ Western is focused on translating research on carbon emission reduction supporting equitable and sustainable solutions,” says Andrew Hrymak, Western Engineering professor and Carbon Solutions project leader.

A Strategic Priority Fund project, Carbon Solutions @ Western is closely aligned with the University’s sustainability goals in Towards Western at 150.


Katarina Grolinger, an assistant professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, is leading a Carbon Solutions project to address the energy consumption of buildings with the use of “digital twins” and machine learning. Buildings account for 40 per cent of the world’s total energy consumption. 

A digital twin refers to a living digital model of a building that continually evolves alongside the real-world building based on real-time data obtained from sensing or Internet of Things systems. Grolinger and her team, in partnership with London Hydro, will aim to provide both static and dynamic representations of selected buildings, enabling an understanding of changing behaviours and identifying carbon reduction opportunities.

 “The main objective of this project is to design and develop models that improve on existing building information systems so we can better reflect the dynamic nature of the buildings in real time,” says Grolinger, who is collaborating on this project with Miriam Capretz, a professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Girma Bitsuamlak, a professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering.  

“Combining real-time Internet of Things systems with machine learning and artificial intelligence will improve our understanding of energy systems and associated energy consumption patterns and assist in identifying opportunities for carbon reduction.”


Tony Straatman’s Carbon Solutions project is exploring solutions to reduce fossil fuel usage in the heating of water and space. 

“In Canada, residential and commercial water and space heating amounts to nearly 75 per cent of total energy usage,” says Straatman, a professor in Mechanical and Materials Engineering. “And over 60 per cent of the heating is derived from fossil fuels.”

The project will focus on solar photovoltaic-generated electricity and will develop an innovative modular thermal battery to store heat from air-source heat pumps.

“A modular system that stores and utilizes solar energy and waste heat for heating applications in residential, industrial and agriculture sectors will substantially reduce fossil fuel usage and Canada’s carbon footprint,” says Straatman.

To pursue this research, Straatman is partnering with several community partners, including Solcan, Neotherm, Enbridge and the City of London. Bringing partners together to develop solutions for carbon reduction is a central pillar of Carbon Solutions @ Western.

“These projects underline our strong ties to Southwestern Ontario and Ontario economies and communities,” says Hrymak. “We believe they will have significant national impact by validating new and innovative approaches to carbon mitigations.”


Carbon Solutions @ Western projects

Diane-laure Arjalies
Scaling up nature-based climate solutions for carbon emissions though an Indigenous- and community-led Conservation Impact Bond

Amarjeet Bassi
Microalgae based Eco-plastic 

Franco Berruti
Development of a farm-size biomass carbonizer for biocarbon production and carbon sequestration 

Michael Boutilier
Converting coker unit off-gas into hydrogen and carbon nanomaterials 

Katarina Grolinger
Digital Twins with Machine Learning for a Sustainable Future

Jury Gualandris
Towards Net-Zero: Assessing and Improving the Carbon Reduction Potential of Circular Clusters

Naomi Klinghoffer
Production of renewable jet fuel from waste

Joshua Pearce
Agrotunnel Agrivoltaics Hybrid for Sustainable Food 

Domenico Santoro 
Circularizing carbon solutions in the municipal sector: replacing methanol with biodegradable (compostable) plastics as carbon source for biological nutrient removal from wastewater

Anthony Straatman
An integrated solar-powered heat pump and modular thermal storage system to offset natural gas usage for heating applications

Yang Zhao
High-performance Na-S Batteries for Large-scale Grid Energy Storage and Electric Vehicles

Ying Zheng
Plasma-assisted CO2 to methanol at ambient conditions