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August 3 / 2021

New laser microfabrication suite at U of A offers researchers sharper lab equipment

CTV EDMONTON — New microfabrication tools will give medical technology developers at the University of Alberta a boost.

The laser equipment will allow inventors across Western Canada to design and test precision medical devices at rapid speeds, according to a release from the U of A.

Developers will now have access to $1.5 million in new laser-based equipment at Smart Technology Innovations (ST), a non-profit business arm of the U of A’s SMART Network thanks to a new investment from Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD).

Prototypes can now be designed and tested using the laser microfabrication suite, the release said. This could include everything from medical implants to lab-on-a-chip technology in a fraction of the time it takes with traditional methods.

“This new equipment allows us to expand our capabilities and the services that we provide, not only to university entrepreneurs but to local industry in Alberta and across Western Canada to build the health technology sector of our country,” Vivian Mushahwar, professor in the faculty of medicine and dentistry, said.

The new suite is the only one of its kind in Western Canada, according to the U of A. It will include a femtosecond (quadrillionth of a second) laser for ultra fine cuts, an optical profiler to provide high-resolution 3D images and a fibre laser micro-welder to connect small pieces.

“We help entrepreneurs take their innovations and develop them in a meaningful way from concept to validation with a team approach that helps them position their innovation in the best way to be picked up by the marketplace,” Mushahwar explained.

“We are wholly focused on precision health technology, building intelligence into the devices to make them adaptive and predictive and able to work with their users in a very intuitive way.”

An Edmonton-based company that specializes in nano, quantum and biopharmaceutical markets is pleased to gain access to the new ST innovations.

“The prototyping, fabrication and quality-control equipment purchased under this project are going to directly change some of our tooling for biosensor technology, genomics and particle accelerator technologies,” Hooman Hosseinkhannazer, vice-president of business development for Norcada, said.

According to the release, the initiative aligns with WD’s focus on supporting commercialization of western Canadian technologies for the global market.

“This investment is about enabling even more small and medium sized technology companies to push the boundaries of product development and commercialization—from more effective medical treatments to better health monitoring, all with the potential to improve the quality of life for Canadians,” Jim Carr, minister and special representative for the Prairies, said.

The U of A said ST Innovations was founded in 2019 with funding from the Government of Alberta to provide access to $14 million in equipment and development services.