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Thomas H Etsell, PhD

Professor

Engineering

Chemical and Materials Engineering

About Me

Although most of my career has been spend at universities (Toronto, Zaragoza, Montpellier, Alberta) or research institutes (Montpellier, Mainz), I have industrial experience in the steel industry (Essar Steel Algoma, Dofasco), the ceramics industry (Quality Hermetics, Toronto) and the polymer industry (Tremco Manufacturing, Toronto).  

During my time as a graduate student and subsequently professor, I have taught a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate courses. Most of these courses are related to materials science, ceramics, thermodynamics, electrochemistry or extractive metallurgy.

Early work in ceramics focused on electrical and transport properties of ionic or mixed conductors. Applications focused on in situ sensors during pyrometallurgical processing especially both intermittent and continuous determination of dissolved oxygen in liquid steel, and gas sensors (O2, CO2, SO2, NOx) for stack and combustion gases. In recent years fuel cells became the main application.

Research has also been carried out on secondary recovery of non-ferrous metals. Patents were issued for recovery of vanadium and nickel from oil sands fly ash, lead from scrap auto batteries and silver from photographic materials. The latter was commercialized in several countries. In an effort to develop a generalized approach to treating industrial waste, transformational roasting was studied whereby roasting with additives was used in an effort to either liberate valuable metals for subsequent leaching or sequester toxic ones. To date, this has been applied to oil sands fly ash, zinc ferrite residues, electric arc furnace steelmaking dust and copper- nickel-arsenic sulphide waste.


Research

Main research area is ceramic materials, chiefly the electrical properties and applications of ionically and mixed conducting oxide ceramics. Recent focus has been on solid oxide fuel cells, mainly tubular cells. In particular, emphasis has been on three problems limiting their commercialization - fabrication cost, power density and long term stability. Potential applications have recently been addressed including carrying out dry reforming of methane in a fuel cell to eliminate CO2, produce CO as a raw material for industrial chemicals, and generate electricity. The reformer can be both thermally and chemically coupled to the fuel cell or thermally coupled only. Also, reversible fuel cells are being studied as a load leveller for renewable wind and solar energy whereby electrolysis mode is used to store energy as fuel when excess electricity is available switching to fuel cell mode when electricity is required.

Keywords: Ceramics, Sensors, Fuel Cells, Electrolytic Cells, Stabilized Zirconia, Secondary Recovery, Transformational Roasting, Pyrometallurgy