When trying to name hotbeds of Canadian chemical innovation, Orangeville, Ont. may not immediately jump to the top of anyone’s list. Yet this idyllic town north of Toronto hosts an advanced pilot plant that utilizes electro-oxidation to kill pathogens and decompose compounds such as pharmaceuticals in municipal sewage.

It’s an idea whose time has come. The technology, which is being deployed by Xogen Technologies, is based upon a patented electrolytic process designed in the 1990s to turn tap water into two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen gas, to create a hydrogen-fuelled home furnace. The promised hydrogen boom never did come to pass, but the concept hasn’t languished in the root cellar. By tweaking the technology and setting up a pilot plant, Xogen is well placed to take advantage of the commercial opportunities awaiting the global wastewater treatment market, which is under increasing pressure due to escalating per capita water consumption and increasingly stringent regulations requiring industry to recycle water and remove contaminants — a tale that you’ll read in “Pure Pursuit.”

Mechanochemistry — promoting reactions between reagents by grinding them together — has found a champion in McGill University’s Tomislav Friscic, whose work is featured in “Grinding Chemistry.” Friscic is part of a group utilizing the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in France to explore quicker pathways to the creation of new polymers, crystals or salts, thus eliminating the need for toxic solvents when creating drugs.

Also featured is materials science maven Mary Anne White, director of the Dalhousie Research in Energy, Advanced Materials and Sustainability (DREAMS) program, who is exploring thermoelectric materials that turn waste heat into power as well as materials that have solar thermal applications for storing solar energy. Could we title this anything but “DREAMS Weaver?”

Finally, Chemical News showcases the usual gamut of fascinating insights into the latest innovations in chemistry, from high-temperature superconductivity to 2D spectroscopy that can probe a larger spectral window of visible wavelengths of light that drive photosynthesis.

This issue, chemistry professor Pierre Potvin of York University, who chairs the Biological and Chemical Defence Review Committee, offered to pen an overview of Canada’s chemical weapons history. The chilling tale can be found in the Then and Now section.