Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

December 13, 2004

U of G opens new Ozone Research Lab

The thinning ozone layer around the Earth’s atmosphere is cause for environmental concern, but at the University of Guelph’s renowned Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility, where plants are grown for use in outer space and on Earth, ozone is being used in an innovative way to help protect the environment.

An Ozone Research Lab opened today that will help scientists control microbial contamination and advance research projects ranging from enhancing greenhouse production to improving food safety to human life support in space exploration missions.

The lab was funded in part by a $100,000 gift from Phil and Laura Greenway of Purification Research Technologies Inc. (PRTI) in Guelph. The company is also investing $300,000 over three years in various research projects at the facility.

Research conducted in the Ozone Research Lab will benefit the greenhouse and agricultural sectors, Canada’s space program, and the general public, said Mike Dixon, chair of the Department of Environmental Biology and director of the controlled environment facility.

“This is a wonderful example of how the connections we make locally can make a difference globally,” he said.

The investment from PRTI was crucial to securing the necessary infrastructure for the new lab, Dixon said. It also allowed him to leverage more than $1 million in support from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF), the Centre for Research in Earth and Space Technology (CRESTech) and the University.

Ozone is already widely used as an alternative disinfectant in water treatment and has been demonstrated to be among the most promising technologies for other uses, Dixon said. “Its powerful oxidizing action attacks bacterial cells and kills them.We will use it as a tool for controlling contamination of various undesirable micro-organisms.”

Ozone technology will be integrated into the nutrient storage systems that are a part of a number of research projects at the facility. This includes the hypobaric chambers where plants are grown at various pressures that simulate conditions on the moon or Mars. The goal of this research is to understand how plants can help support humans during long term space exploration missions, such as a round trip to Mars, which could take more than two years.

The new ozone lab will also support research on recycling water and nutrients, waste remediation and indoor air quality. “We’ll even be looking at applications for use in your own kitchen, from washing vegetables and sterilizing cutting boards to adding a solution to vases that hold cut flowers to extend shelf life,” Dixon said.

During an opening ceremony, president Alastair Summerlee recognized the support from OMAF, CRESTech, PRTI and Thiessen Greenhouse Flowers of Leamington, Ont., which supplies plant materials for current research. “This is just one more example of how the university – with help from local and national partners – can make a huge contribution to Canada’s health, well-being and technological future,” he said.

“The Ozone Research Lab will inspire innovation and help turn ideas into realization. It is also a place that will attract people interested in new ways of doing science and that will further establish Guelph as a leader in the life sciences.”

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982.

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