“These research projects will sow the seeds of a sunrise industry – tapping on the sun as a form of alternative energy for Singapore. Energy security and environmental sustainability are essential public policy priorities and these are key focus areas of NTU’s sustainability research,” said NTU President-Designate and Provost, Professor Bertil Andersson.
The two agreements are with the Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH (AIT), a leading research and development expert in sustainable building technologies in Europe, and SOLID ASIA, one of the world’s leading engineer, key equipment manufacturer and operator of large solar thermal plants. SOLID ASIA will work with NTU to optimise the use of solar thermal energy for tropical environments like Singapore and have plans to set up a Centre of Excellence in Solar Thermal.
Embedded pipes in walls
Under the agreement with AIT, NTU researchers will work with the Austrians to study the feasibility of embedding pipes in walls and ceilings to carry cooled water. This will improve the overall energy efficiency of cooling systems such as air-conditioning and other air-handling units.
This method of embedding water pipes is currently used for heating and cooling buildings in temperate countries. But there is insufficient understanding of how it can work effectively in the tropics. The researchers will study how renewable energies and de-humidification strategies can be combined with these technologies.
Private developers and government agencies have shown interest in this project and are expected to contribute up to S$1million to fund this research.
Centre of Excellence in Solar Thermal
The researchers are also studying how to harvest solar thermal energy on a large scale effectively and efficiently. Currently, most solar thermal systems are designed to ‘collect’ direct and intense sunlight, which is prevalent in low-humidity, low-cloud climates.
However, tropical countries like Singapore experience frequent cloud cover and high humidity, which diffuses the sunlight in multiple directions. This reduces the effectiveness and efficiency of solar thermal heat collection.
To address the problem of tapping solar thermal energy in tropical environments, NTU researchers are partnering SOLID ASIA, one of the world’s leading company in the field of large-scale solar thermal plants, to optimise these systems for use in countries like Singapore.
The Centre of Excellence in Solar Thermal to be jointly established by NTU and SOLID ASIA will conduct research to develop advanced thermal materials and systems which can harness solar thermal energy more effectively.
The centre is likely to be set up in the upcoming CleanTech Park, adjacent to the NTU campus, with expected funding of up to S$2 million from industry partners and government agencies.
Representing NTU in these collaborations with AIT and SOLID ASIA is the Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N). ERI@N’s key research focus is on alternative sources of energy, its usage and applications, and improving the efficiency of current energy systems.
With more than S$830 million in research funding in sustainability alone, NTU is fast becoming a global research powerhouse in environmental technologies. Besides ERI@N, NTU has several other centres engaged in sustainability research, including the Earth Observatory of Singapore, Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute, and the TUM-Create Centre for Electromobility
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