LKC FES academic receives international research grant from China

The local project team led by Assoc Prof Ir Ts Dr Bernard Saw Lip Huat from the Department of Mechanical and Material Engineering, Lee Kong Chian Faculty of Engineering and Science, and the China project team led by Prof Jin Liwen from the School of Human Settlements and Civil Engineering, Xi’an Jiaotong University have successfully secured a research grant for their joint project under the 2023 Shaanxi Province Key Research and Development Project — Key International Science and Technology Collaboration programme. After several rounds of evaluation and on-site defense, the project was approved by the Department of Science and Technology of Shaanxi Province. The title of the project was “Development of all seasons efficient heating technology using medium-deep geothermal energy coupled with thermal energy storage system”. The grant was awarded for three years, starting from 1 January 2023 until 31 December 2025. The project has a total investment of approximately 3.5million RMB, including 800,000 RMB coming from the research grant. This new milestone marks a significant achievement for the team’s long-standing collaboration.

The project aimed to effectively utilise geothermal energy from a depth of 2,500-3,000 metres as the primary energy source, coupled with a district heating system to provide heating and hot water for the buildings. This project will involve the development of a quick algorithm for predicting the performance of a deep buried pipe network, which will then be integrated with advanced thermal energy storage technology to establish an optimised design for a medium-deep geothermal energy and thermal storage system. As part of the project, a pilot engineering project will be constructed to demonstrate the system and validate the thermal economy and energy cost evaluation model of the system. Besides, an assessment method for the return-on-investment period of the system will be proposed.

The International Science and Technology Collaboration Plan for Shaanxi Province, China in 2023 has set its sights on establishing the Qin Chuang Yuan’s innovation-driven platform and promoting the integration of innovation chain and industrial chain development goals. Through joint efforts of enterprises, universities, research institutions, and domestic and foreign research and innovation institutions will collaborate to conduct basic scientific research, industrial technology innovation research and development, as well as “Belt and Road” scientific and technological cooperation and exchange activities, with a primary focus on supporting a number of key core technology research and addressing industry challenges. Moreover, higher education institutions and research institutions, along with industries possessing strong innovation capabilities in Shaanxi Province will cooperate with foreign innovation institutions or advantageous enterprises to jointly carry out research and development and technology transfer and transformation focused on key industrial chains such as high-end machines tools, photonics technology, energy and chemicals industry, new energy vehicles, new materials, additive manufacturing, Beidou technology, hydrogen energy, biological breeding, etc. This joint effort aims to solve key innovative technologies and accelerate the transformation and application of research outcomes.

According to Dr Bernard, geothermal is a renewable energy source that produces very little greenhouse gas emissions, making it a key player in reducing the carbon footprint and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. The energy extracted from geothermal can be used to provide hot water or heat the buildings. The building owners can save up to 30-50% on energy costs compared to other conventional systems.

He remarked that international collaboration in research and development is increasingly important in today's globalised world. Collaborating with researchers from different countries and backgrounds can bring diverse perspectives, access to unique resources and expertise, and help accelerate progress towards common goals. However, collaborating internationally can pose various challenges. One way that universities can help the academic/researcher is by providing funding opportunities to facilitate such collaborations. This could include travel grants or research funds specifically allocated for joint projects with international partners. In addition, universities can also create networking opportunities such as conferences or workshops to allow young researchers to connect with potential international collaborators. By promoting a culture of international collaboration, universities can help young academics/researchers broaden their research horizons and simultaneously enhance the university’s ranking.

Dr Bernard Saw secured an international research grant under the 2023 Shaanxi Province Key Research and Development Project — Key International Science and Technology Collaboration programme

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