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Welcome to Ongen
Research & Development

Background

Ongen is a multi-disciplinary research and development group working with industry and government agencies on novel use, and reuse, of regional resources to create new opportunities for sustainable economic development.

Our work includes:
  • mitigation of industrial off-gas CO2
  • bioenergy
  • bioprospecting microalgae for commercially valuable bioproducts
  • natural antioxidant, antibacterial, anticancer, and antiviral agents
  • capture and repurposing on-site industrial waste energy
  • productivity and environmental impacts from introducing battery electric vehicles and automation into mining
  • systems to protect drinking water for remote communities and households
The team's work is internationally recognized, including for several awards, and more details of our active projects and members of the current team can be found below.

 

Bioprospecting for unique species of microalgae

Roman baths Stress from extreme and fluctuating environmental conditions that microalgae in northern Canada endure makes them of interest in terms of potential beneficial protective biochemical compounds.

We have a unique sampling program that is collecting microalgae from a wide-range of water bodies that experience a variety of stresses. For example, microalgae growing in abandoned mine tailing ponds that are exposed to nutrient deficiency, high metal levels and/or low pH values.

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Biofuels - biodiesel from microalgae

Roman hot spring baths contianing green algae In the push towards creating economies that encourage investment and growth in renewable energy, biodiesel from certain microalgae, microscopic green plants found "floating" in water,  is globally a major focus as a route to mass production of  biofuels.

Microalgae can capture solar energy 10 to 50 times more efficiently than terrestrial plants used to produce oils (as lipids). As a consequence microalgae produce significantly more feedstock per hectare, in the form of lipids, that can be subsequently converted into biodiesel.

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Natural antibacterial compounds

Sampling for antimicrobial activity A focus of our work is microalgal production of compounds that exhibit high activity against bacteria.

There is a continuous need to discover new antibacterial agents and novel mechanisms of action due to development of resistance to antibiotics in current clinical use.

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Industrial CO2 mitigation

Regions such as Northern Ontario can provide solutions to mass production of microalgae, even during extended periods of cold winter weather:

- large tracts of marginal or non-productive land to host microalgae production facilities, thereby avoiding the pitfalls associated with uptake of agriculture, forested or virgin land;

- large supplies of waste heat to allow all year round production;

- large volumes of CO2 to enhance microalgae production rates.

Looking for high lipid production We have as a consequence established a unique pilot facility that is an array of tanks for growing microalgae for biodiesel.

They are heated and fed with real industrial off-gas and can operate year-round, despite periods of extremely cold conditions.

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Natural anticancer agents

Sampling for antimicrobial activity An exciting development of our work is bioprospectd microalgal production of compounds that exhibit significant anticancer activity in human cell lines.

Our microalgal extracts with antibacterial activity have been tested on both non-cancer and cancer human cell lines.

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Energy savings and greenhouse gas reduction

Industrial site We are interested in enhanced energy security and reduced fossil fuel dependence for industry through developing new on-site concepts to recover and reuse otherwise waste energy.

A major target is to tap into low-grade heat in various process water and gas streams on industrial sites.

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Protecting drinking water supplies

Novel contactors for toxin destruction Every year advisories are issued to not extract water from lakes and rivers for drinking. This is particuarly so for remote communities, such as first nations, mine camps and individual households, not connected to municipal water supplies. One possible cause is Cylindrospermopsin (CYN), one of the common cyanobacterial toxins, that targets protein and glutathione synthesis in hepatocytes, and may cause fever, diarrhea, hepatomegaly and kidney damage.

To tackle this problem, we are looking at a combination of germicidal UV and photocatalytic activity to simultaneuosly kill bacteria and destroy toxins.

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Health benefical natural compounds

Identifying nutraceuticals In addition to optimizing biodiesel production from bioprospected microalgae, to maximize opportunity and resource utilization we are also looking at co-production of other high value chemicals.

Algae, the only plants known to produce all eight amino acids essential to human health, can also generate natural health benefical compounds (nutraceuticals) such as omega3 fatty acids and antioxidants, as well as food supplements such as proteins.

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Automated mining - impact on sustainability

Automated mining The growing demand for increased production has resulted in the desire to develop deeper underground to extract more resources.

However, when operating at great depths, mining becomes less economic as ventilation costs drastically increase. As a result, there is a move to utilize electric-power machinery instead of traditional diesel machines in order to reduce emissions, as well as automated equipment to improve productivity and safety.

We are investigating the impact of automated and electric mining equipment on mine operations, and in particular improvements in sustainability and the additional benefits these will provide the industry.

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Capturing CO2 from small volume sources

Generator Collaborative research and development is exploring environmental and economic, benefits from capturing and repurposing carbon dioxide (CO2) from relatively small volume sources.

An example is the exhaust CO2 emitted by stand-alone electricity generators, such as those that burn methane in landfill biogas to produce electricity. The goal is to capture the CO2 to promote growth of regional microalgae that can produce a revenue stream of high-value health beneficial natural compounds, such as omega3's and antioxidants.

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Benchmarking sustainability performance

Performance ad outcomes benchmarking We have developed the enviroIndex™, a sustainability performance index that measures and quantifies benchmarks using a easy to understand numerical scale.

The outcomes can be used to help enhance long-term sustainability and the bottom line. Sectors that we currently work in, include:
Events
Health
Communities
Manufacturing
Travel & Tourism
Administration Services

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