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Bill Kay

Bill Kay When Bill Kay graduated from the University of Alberta with a degree in chemical engineering in 1957, he certainly did not expect what followed.

Kay’s interest in science came about when he was still in high school. Apparently he had always been an avid science fiction reader. Another influence was his neighbours, both university students—one a pharmacist, the other, an engineer.

ARC logoAfter he graduated, Kay was employed by CIL, where he remained for seven years. At that time, the company needed more employees in Eastern Canada and repeatedly asked Kay to transfer. Wanting to stay in Alberta, he declined and resolved to find other employment, to ensure he could stay in the province. It turned out that the Alberta Research Council (ARC) was seeking an individual with Kay’s qualifications and subsequently, he was hired.

Kay remained with the ARC until recently, retiring after over 34 years. However, his work continues to have an impact in Alberta industry.

In the early 1990s, the ARC was approached to commence research on a new project. Kay, working with colleagues Dr. Bertram and Jim Laidler, began researching the production of sulphur fine enough to be pumpable for use in the pulp and paper industry.

Through years of testing, the group managed to devise a process through which the sulphur was melted, shot into water and then returned to pellet form. The water was a necessary component of the process as grinding solid sulphur causes dangerous explosions. Potential uses for the fine particle sulphur are, depending on its size, pesticide or fungicide and in addition, is benign to the environment as it converts to fertilizer in a matter of days after application.

In the summer of 2003, Calgary company Agrimax Limited is planning to begin production on fine particle sulphur at their plant in Irricana, Alberta. Without the work of Kay, Bertram and Laidler, this project would not be functioning at this stage.

In addition to the sulphur fertilizer process, Kay has had a part in a multitude of other ARC projects. In the years approaching his retirement, he was concurrently working on the development of the artificial sweetener stevioside, as well as utilizing waste oil containers to make replacement highway barrier posts. They are now being used in Edmonton, from 34th Street to the Sherwood Park Freeway.

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