Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
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Past Winner
2012 NSERC Synergy Awards for Innovation

Christopher Bale

École Polytechnique de Montréal
Rio Tinto Iron & Titanium; Alcoa Technical Center; Corning Incorporated; Teck Metals Ltd.; Xstrata Process Support; General Motors of Canada; Research Institute of Industrial Science and Technology; and Rio Tinto Alcan

Leo Derikx Award

Christopher Bale
Christopher Bale
Credit: Cpl Roxanne Shewchuk, Rideau Hall, OSGG

Having the right tool for the right job is, of course, vital to any industry. But what is even more valuable is having a great tool for getting the job done in many industries.

The recipients of the NSERC 2012 Leo Derikx Award—Arthur Pelton, Patrice Chartrand and Christopher Bale of the Chemical Engineering Department at the École polytechnique de Montréal, and In-Ho Jung of the Department of Mining and Materials Engineering at McGill University—have created diverse chemistry simulation software called FactSage. It allows users to perform complex chemical equilibrium calculations using a vast, critically evaluated database, saving time and costs associated with physical experimentation.

The software is one of the largest, fully integrated database computing systems in chemical thermodynamics in the world. Run on a personal computer, it is used in fields as diverse as materials science, metallurgy, glass technology, nuclear waste disposal, solar energy storage, combustion and ceramics by over 500 industrial, governmental and university laboratories in 43 countries. FactSage has also proven to be a vital teaching tool.

In industry, Rio Tinto uses FactSage to assess the impact of smelting energy and product quality, shortening development time and making the most of natural and human resources. Corning has been a client for over 15 years, using FactSage for thermodynamic analyses that would otherwise be heavily time-consuming or not possible at all. Company officials have cited access to the software as a key factor in their success. General Motors is also a user, employing FactSage to develop lightweight, next-generation alloys that are essential to making vehicles more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly.

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