Male professor sits on a stool in a chemical engineering lab
Ajay Dalai was recognized as Distinguished Researcher at USask's Fall Convocation. Photo: Dave Stobbe

Distinguished Researcher seeks sustainable solutions to meet world energy demands

Ajay Dalai was recognized as Distinguished Researcher by the University of Saskatchewan.

The prolific research of chemical engineer Dr. Ajay Dalai (PhD) has made major impacts in the fields of bioenergy, heavy oil and gas processing, and environmentally safe remediation of wastewater and waste gas streams for 25 years.

Dalai was recognized as Distinguished Researcher on Nov. 9 at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) Fall Convocation.

“I very much appreciate receiving the university’s premier award, which recognizes research as a top priority,” said Dalai, distinguished professor of chemical and biological engineering in the College of Engineering and Canada Research Chair (CRC) of Bioenergy and Environmentally Friendly Chemical Processing.

“This award has added value in terms of both as motivation to continue to do high quality research, and for the image and reputation of my department, college and the university. This is also a tribute to the entire team of researchers who have worked with me over the past 25-plus years.”

Dalai, who joined USask as a petroleum engineer, changed direction to bioenergy in July 2001, when he was awarded a Tier II CRC that was upgraded in 2009 to the current Tier 1. He is USask’s longest-serving CRC today.

Bioenergy research, which includes turning agricultural and forestry industry residues into bio pellets, liquid and gaseous fuels, and biochar, is helping to contribute more to society with a sustainable approach to meeting energy demands, Dalai said. Sustainability in petroleum means reducing emissions from production and processing, which his research helps to achieve by developing and applying nanocatalytic materials.

Dalai has published more than 600 papers in international journals, books, and conference proceedings, which have been cited 34,000 times. His research projects, often in collaboration with industry, have been awarded more than $36 million by granting agencies such as the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, other government agencies and industry.

Dalai attributes part of his prolific research successes to recruiting and training some of the best people worldwide. The 25 to 35 students working in his labs annually bring an internal flavour to the teams, and he has supervised and graduated 36 PhDs and 50 master’s students, and many post-doctoral and undergraduate students.

Dalai has been recognized nationally and internationally with awards and fellowships from nine professional societies. The Royal Society of Canada in 2020 awarded him the country’s highest honour for academics—the Miroslaw Romanowski Medal.