The S$200 million Energy Research Institute @ NTU or ERI@N, for short, has a list of partners that reads like the who's who in the industry.
Officially opened in June 2010, ERI@N is a broad-based, multidisciplinary research institute that explores complex energy-related issues. With 190 research scientists and 102 PhD and Master’s students working at the frontier of energy research, it has a growing reputation as a go-to hub for solutions in clean tech and renewable energy.
ERI@N’s academic partners include the University of California, Berkeley, Imperial College London, Technical University of Munich, University of Cambridge, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Austrian Institute of Technology. Since 2009, multinational companies and key industry players such as Bosch, Rolls-Royce, Vestas, Gamesa and IBM have set up joint laboratories at the NTU campus. The university has also forged strong partnerships with Toshiba, Keppel, JTC Corp, SembCorp, ClassNK and DNV.
“In these times of economic and political uncertainty, attention has been firmly focused on energy security and its impact on society,” says NTU President Prof Bertil Andersson. “Adding to already existing concerns about climate change, the search for new energy sources and improving energy efficiency is growing apace.”
Toshiba has opened a data centre test-bed on campus that is evaluating ways to lower a building’s power consumption. With Toshiba, ERI@N has also started a pilot project aimed at exploring energy-efficient innovations for data centres built in tropical climates.
In a similar vein, ERI@N has joined forces with JTC and Philips to set up a smart lighting test-bed that is the largest of its kind in Singapore. Called the Low Voltage Direct Current grid network, the smart grid prototype integrates renewable energy technology such as solar panels and fuel cells, and has been shown to save up to 45 per cent of energy.
With Bosch, ERI@N is developing solutions in organic photovoltaics, a cost-effective alternative to silicon-based solar cells, while SOLID ASIA has teamed up with the institute to pursue solar thermal solutions for applications that would include more effective solar cooling.
ERI@N’s efforts in solar fuels include joint laboratories with Prof James Barber of Imperial College London, who is widely regarded as a pioneer in the field, as well as Prof Michael Grätzel of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, the inventor of the dye-sensitised solar cell also known as the “Grätzel cell”. To create sustainable energy from sunlight, Prof Grätzel will lead the effort to develop integrated solar photovoltaic and solar fuel solutions based on oxide semiconducting materials.
In the solar cell field, ERI@N has also set up a joint programme with Australian renewable energy firm, Dyesol Limited. This partnership will develop dye-sensitised solar cells as a viable alternative to cost-competitive energy harvesting solutions that may be readily integrated into buildings and consumer applications.
ERI@N drives a major research project on “electromobility in megacities” through the TUM-CREATE Centre for Electromobility. The centre is a collaboration by NTU and Germany’s Technical University of Munich (TUM), under the Singapore National Research Foundation’s Campus for Research Excellence And Technological Enterprise (CREATE) programme. Working closely with industry powerhouses such as Audi, IBM, Bosch, Siemens, EADS, Infineon, SERIS, TUV, STKinetics and Gemalto, TUM-CREATE is shaping a new paradigm in “green” transportation.
Through the Cambridge Centre for Carbon Reduction in Chemical Technology (C4T), a CREATE partnership involving University of Cambridge, NTU is contributing its expertise to minimise the carbon footprint of industrial-scale chemical processes.
Wind is a renewable energy source seeing rising demand in the region, and is an important research area under ERI@N. In this field, NTU has also attracted global leaders to our home grounds.
Gamesa has set up an advanced materials research centre at NTU – its first in Southeast Asia – to develop new materials and coatings for its advanced wind turbines.
ERI@N’s Joint Industry Programme in Offshore Renewables to construct efficient offshore power systems is the first of its kind in the local offshore renewable energy sector. Its projects include finding innovative ways to anchor and stabilise offshore wind turbines and developing novel nano-coatings to fight corrosion at sea. The joint programme began with companies such as Rolls-Royce, DNV, Vestas and Keppel Offshore & Marine, and now includes IBM and DHI. It also leverages the expertise of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norwegian Research Centre for Offshore Wind Technology, and the American-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute.
In conjunction with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, ERI@N also hosts the Maritime Clean Energy Research Programme to promote green, carbon-neutral, energy management solutions.