Thomas H Etsell, PhD

Professor, Faculty of Engineering - Chemical and Materials Engineering Dept


Professor, Faculty of Engineering - Chemical and Materials Engineering Dept
(780) 492-5594
12-390 Donadeo Innovation Centre For Engineering
9211-116 St
Edmonton AB
T6G 2H5



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.


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


CH E 485 - Fuel Cells and Their Applications

Introduction to principles of operation of fuel cells and their applications; historical and environmental perspectives; elementary electrochemistry, types of fuel cell - fuels, membranes and liquid ion conductors, operating conditions; factors affecting performance; applications as standing engines and mobile power sources. Limited to 3rd/4th year undergraduate students in engineering. Prerequisites: CH E 343, MAT E 202 or equivalent and MATH 201 or consent of Instructor.

Winter Term 2021
CH E 694 - Advanced Topics in Chemical Engineering

An advanced treatment of selected chemical engineering topics of current interest to staff and students.

Winter Term 2021
MAT E 202 - Materials Science II

An introduction to the science of materials relating their mechanical, thermal, electronic, and chemical properties to atomic, molecular, and crystal structure. Ceramic and metallic crystals, glasses, polymers, and composite materials. Multi-phase materials, phase transformations, and strengthening processes. Laboratories include mechanical properties of materials, microstructure, heat treatment of steel, and hands on design experiments. Prerequisite: CHEM 105 or consent of Department.

Winter Term 2021

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