25 May 2012
The three teams with Prof Wang Chien Ming, Director, ESP (far left), Dr Ernest Chua (2nd from left) and Assoc Prof Anjam Khursheed (far right).
FANCY a window in your office or house that is intelligent enough to let in sunlight when needed, and to automatically draw the shade if it becomes too glaring and warm for comfort? Or a nursery which takes care of itself where watering is concerned? Students in the Engineering Science Programme (ESP) at the Faculty of Engineering, have the answers.
Their answers lie in the design of sensors - a theme which Year-3 ESP students explore each year. This year, under the mentorship of Associate Professor Anjam Khursheed who is also with the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Dr Ernest Chua Kian Jon, Department of Mechanical Engineering, the students worked on the use of sensors in their solutions for boosting energy efficiency and sustainability. The smart window and rain sensor projects won ESP Distinction Award -- as well as another project on green buildings equipped with sensors to automatically adjust humidity and temperature.
Said Mr Melvin Ang, who wrote the research paper on the smart window, "Transistor Thermal Sensor for Automated Window Shutter System in Energy Efficient Building Designs" with Mr Terrance Low and Mr Raghav Malhotra: "We propose a smart window concept whereby an automated shutter system will lower the solar shade when the temperature is above a certain threshold. The sensors will react to the local environment in real time so the indoor environment is automatically maintained at optimum thermal comfort level as well as sufficient lighting."
Team working on the smart window project also researched on how natural light can help workers to be more productive. Choice of blinds and shades is also factored into their design of the sensing system.
The team is also excited about the possibility of delivering their technology in the form of a DIY package so that home owners can fit it to their windows. Assoc Prof Khursheed said that their proposed system is reliable and requires low maintenance. Easy to fabricate, it can be installed immediately for comfort and savings in energy.
The other award-winning project, "Design of Rain Sensor to regulate Irrigation in Gardening" was by Mr David Chang, Mr Clement Kwok and Mr Cher Kiat Yan.
Too much rainfall can kill your orchids. This team working on rain sensors also did market research and interviewed nursery owners on their needs and challenges.
Said Mr Kwok, "Over and under-watering of ornamental plants, especially, can cause of a host of problems. Essentially, our system is made from extremely simple materials which are readily available, such as funnel, copper wire and even a dustbin. We have demonstrated that we can make a robust rainfall intensity sensor within a tight budget."
The sensing system can then be hooked onto a programme to generate signals to control the awnings - to either allow the plants to take in more rain, or to block off the rain. This team not only researched on the design of their sensor, but also the watering needs of ornamental plants such as orchids.
The third winning project, "Humidity and Thermal Sensors for Human Comfort Control in Green Buildings" is by Mr Youyang Cheng, Mr Clement Liew and Ms Wu Lingxue. Their system consists of an array of sensors that can be linked to fuzzy algorithms to optimize air conditioning. Said Mr Cheng, "Savings is multiplied when an array of humidity and temperature sensors is used to monitor real-time 3D humidity and temperature distributions in different rooms. These sensors in turn activate control algorithms to ensure human comfort through the right level of air conditioning. We have shown our system to be comparable to commercial ones, yet significantly cheaper."
"Buildings typically use a great deal of energy to maintain its temperature and humidity. This project enables smart control of temperature and humidity and has a huge potential to save energy in providing thermal comfort conditions to buildings’ occupants," said Dr Ernest Chua.