When Bill Kay graduated from the University of Alberta
with a degree in chemical engineering in 1957, he certainly did not expect
Kays 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 studentsone
a pharmacist, the other, an engineer.
After 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 Kays 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
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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