U of S researchers exploring soil ecosystems, biomedical coating

SASKATOON – University of Saskatchewan (U of S) researchers have been awarded close to $1.5 million by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for collaborative projects that will improve the durability of biomedical implants and increase understanding of how land use and climate affect soil in agricultural areas.

“This major investment enables our talented scientists and engineers to work in partnership with industry and government to find innovative solutions for improving human and environmental health,” said Karen Chad, U of S vice-president research. “These outstanding projects will also advance research and training opportunities for more than 20 graduate and undergraduate students, as well as other research personnel.” 

Angela Bedard-Haughn, professor in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources, will receive $852,036 over three years from NSERC, as well as in-kind support from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Swift Current Research and Development Centre.

Bedard-Haughn’s team, which includes soil scientists and agricultural economists, will examine several innovative indicators of soil change across ecological and land use transition zones—such as between mixed grasslands and aspen parklands—to develop a short-term test for long-term soil resilience.

“We know that soils help purify water, cycle nutrients and store carbon, but it’s not known whether there is a tipping point for these soil functions that are so critical for the sustainability of agricultural landscapes,” she said. “Through this project, we’ll look at how soils in transition zones might respond to land use changes and climate change, and seek to quantify the net costs and benefits of particular land uses such as crop land versus pasture.”

The project will involve seven graduate students, six undergraduates, a post-doctoral fellow, and a technician.

Qiaoqin Yang, professor in the College of Engineering, has been awarded $634,632 over three years for research into nanostructured coatings that hold promise for improving the durability and performance of biomedical implants.

With in-kind support from PLASMIONIQUE Inc. and Intlvac Thin Film Corporation, her team will look at developing large-scale production techniques for nanostructured diamond-like coatings on implants. These nanocoatings keep friction low and thus have very high wear and corrosion resistance, properties which could improve the lifetime of artificial joints so that they last for up to 40 years or more.

Yang said that currently the average lifespan of an artificial joint is 15 to 20 years, noting that component wear leads to device loosening which limits joint lifespan.

“Artificial hip and knee joints provide stability and carry body weight so they have to be strong and flexible,” said Yang. “The biggest problems with metals are low wear resistance, high friction coefficient, and limited corrosion resistance which limit the life of artificial joints.”

She noted that every year in Canada, more than 60,000 people undergo hip or knee replacement surgery.

The projects are part of a $50 million investment announced on Feb. 15 by Science Minister Kirsty Duncan in NSERC’s Strategic Partnership Grants program.


For more information, contact:

Kira Glasscock
Communications Co-ordinator
College of Agriculture and Bioresources
University of Saskatchewan

Marielle Gauthier
Communications Officer
College of Engineering
University of Saskatchewan


Jennifer Thoma
Media Relations Specialist
University of Saskatchewan

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