When freezing rain hits, a spray of de-icer enables snow and ice-covered aircraft to get off the ground. Unfortunately, safety comes at a cost. Airports currently use a formula primarily made of ethylene glycol, a non-biodegradable, toxic substance.
Flora Ng says there’s a better way to prevent ice build-up on aircraft. The chemical engineering professor is turning glycerol into 1,2-Propanediol, a green de-icer that meets industry specifications and could replace petroleum-based materials. Glycerol is a by-product of biodiesel, making Ng’s green de-icer even more eco-friendly.
Ng has spent over 20 years researching catalytic distillation, a process that speeds up chemical reactions and separates the products. It has an impact on creating biodiesels from waste oil and greening oil sands.
Over the years, her chemical engineering achievements have been widely recognized. A fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Ng recently won the Canadian Green Chemistry and Engineering award in the individual category and in 2008 received the university’s highest academic honour when she was named a University Professor. Still, Ng’s eye remains on the future.
“I’m proud that I have helped many highly-trained students graduate,” she says. “They’re the next generation of exceptional researchers.”