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Why Give | Impact stories

Two generations of UBC alumni help jump start battery and clean energy innovation

Patrick and Paul Daniel's support for clean energy innovation is helping world-leading faculty and students at the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses shape a sustainable future.

Applied Science students at a design innovation day

Since 2016, the Daniel Family Foundation has supported UBC student engineering design teams—especially those focused on clean energy and sustainability—helping them gain vital hands-on and team-based learning. The Daniels are carrying that vision forward with renewed support for UBC Okanagan’s Next Generation Battery Research & Training Centre and UBC Vancouver’s Smart Hydrogen Energy District (SHED).

Patrick Daniel (MASc ’70 Chemical Engineering) and his son Paul (MEng ’06 Mechanical Engineering) are UBC alumni who believe developing sustainable and renewable energy technologies is essential. As Faculty of Applied Science alumni spanning two generations, it only seemed natural to give back to their alma mater—which is a world leader in taking urgent action to combat climate change.

“We’ve been involved for several years now with the School of Engineering, sponsoring several student competitions with clean energy projects, such as solar-powered vehicles,” says Patrick Daniel. “Recently, we’ve become involved with the clean energy district underway at UBC Vancouver—building on our long-time involvement with new energy sources.”

Walter Mérida, the Associate Dean of Research and Industrial Partnerships for the Faculty of Applied Science, oversees the team at MéridaLabs in Vancouver that is developing the SHED. Using the campus as a living lab for energy research, the goal is to explore net-zero business and service models—while still allowing for population and building growth—and to demonstrate how sustainable technologies can be scaled up, to encourage their adoption in our society.

Energy technologies can evolve and grow in previously unimagined ways, as Prof. Mérida explains.

“As an example, nobody thought a car would become a large battery on wheels with an advanced telecommunications centre.”

Prof. Mérida believes the future of clean energy lies with a suite of collaborative solutions—rather than any single technology.

“People want services, not technologies,” says Prof. Mérida. “While they may care, secondarily, about where the electricity comes from—we still need warmth, protection, entertainment, and transportation.”

UBC Okanagan’s Advanced Materials for Energy Storage Lab, headed by Jian Liu, Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering, is developing new energy storage applications, including next-generation batteries and supercapacitors.

One goal is to create a superior low-cost battery for electric vehicles. The battery tech developed in his lab has shown an improvement of up to 500 kilometres per charge. Prof. Liu believes the batteries developed can also provide homes with off-grid energy storage options.

“Our goal is to not only develop the battery chemistry here but eventually manufacture the batteries in BC,” says Prof. Liu—who sees this as a step toward a locally-sourced clean energy economy.

“Ideally, we would also mine or recycle those materials in BC—a battery circular economy, where we do everything locally and in Canada.”

Patrick and Paul Daniel have helped UBC researchers, like Jian Liu and Walter Mérida, with the challenges of achieving a sustainable future. Supporting this research is crucial, as Paul Daniel explains.

“It’s hard to overstate the importance of renewables in this day and age—especially in Canada, where we’re still very dependent on natural resource extraction.”

Paul, who fondly recalls studying hydrogen fuel cells under Prof. Walter Mérida, feels UBC is the ideal place to carry this work forward.

“I learned quite a bit about fuel cells at UBC—and other areas are still emerging,” says Paul. “Batteries will become more important for renewable power generation as energy storage needs increase.”

Jian Liu acknowledges donors like the Daniels are critical to his team’s work, particularly when pursuing innovative research.

“We really appreciate this gift from the Daniel Family Foundation,” says Prof. Liu. “This will help accelerate energy storage development at UBC.”

As two generations of UBC alumni, Patrick and Paul Daniel’s continuing support for clean energy innovation and student engineering design teams is helping to create world-leading expertise at the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses—and energizing the vital work of future sustainability.