NTU part deux

Today was the second part of a 2 day intensive NTU tour. Our first stop was at the Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N). It seems to me that the people in Singapore like there acronyms and want to have the best looking ones compared to the rest. This was an interesting place to visit and get to see all the different technologies they have produced. My main interest here was seeing in a little diorama how all the different technologies work together to make a cleaner more efficient city. This was a nice visit as it allowed us to see the impact the research will have on the future.

After ERI@N we had 6 presentations prepared by PhD students with varying fields of research. After these presentations we were given a tour of the labs that a few of these students used. The most exciting one that i saw utilised quantum technology and form Bose Einstein condensate. This was my favourite since it had an experiment running and you could see the cloud of atoms in the centre of the apparatus.

Nanyang ERI and SPMS

The study tour group arrived at NTU in the morning for another day of presentations.
We were greeted by Prof. Choo Fook Hoong who was a part of the energy research institute at NTU.
He gave us an introduction about the institute and how it was the cross-link which works with school of materials science and engineering which we visited yesterday. We were given another six specialist lectures by graduates and research fellows. The topics were solar energy, fuel cells, and energy storage. More specifically Perovskite solar cells, Novel materials for high efficiency Perovskite based solar cells, as the solar energy. The role of electronic properties of platinum and platinum alloys for enhanced reformate electro-oxidation in polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells, and electrical properties of Gadolinium doped Ceria, as fuel cell research. Finally then it was, Fundamental studies on Vanadium pentoxide (V2O5) cathodes for Lithium ion batteries, and carbon based electrodes for Vanadium redox flow.
Following those presentations we went to some project displays where they showed us some of the technology they have researched and are currently using. This included running cold water through pipes in the roof to cool rooms hence saving power, heat transfer stations and highly efficient evaporative air-conditioning techniques, DC power grids for homes, and building-wide monitoring.
We then had lunch put on for us, a complementary lunch is always nice. Soon after we took a bus over to the school of physical and mathematical sciences (SPMS)

The presentations we were then given were better presented so I was able to listen easier. The first was an introduction to SPMS with information about their scholarships. Soon the post-docs gave their presentations which started off with “Transformation optics/thermal cooling”. This presentation was essentially about bending light around objects to make them invisible using meta materials and using metal in a specific way to be able to hide thermal anomalies as heat camouflage. The second was “Laser cooling”, counterintuitive but self explanatory. Next was about The Centre for Disruptive Photonic Technologies (CDPT) and cognitive photons. The last for that day was about Milikelvin (really cold) system for cold atoms and superconductors.

We then broke for coffee where we could speak with the presenters. Which was followed by visits to the SPMS laboratories which had lots of lasers. One laboratory was isolating and cooling atoms to a point where their wave function merged as they became one object. They were testing its properties.

ERI@N & NTU Day 2

On our sixth day of the study tour we once again spent our entire day at NTU (Nanyang Technological University) as we did yesterday. This time however we visited two different places at NTU.

Our first stop for the day was the beautiful new CleanTech One building which is home to the Energy Research Institute @ NTU, or ERI@N for short. ERI@N is a research centre which main focuses are  on energy storage, fuel cells, sustainable building technologies, maritime energy, solar energy and solar fuels, wind and marine renewables, and electric cars. They strive to make a cleaner and greener future for the world. The CleanTech One building that they are located in even hosts some of the technology that they have created. Some of the products they have created include dehumidification cooling, wireless temperature gauges for around your house or building to monitor trends, and even electric cars. Their own building uses evaporative cooling that is in the tiles of the ceiling, rather than have air blown into only certain areas, therefore the room is cooled more evenly. The roof of the CleanTech One building is covered in solar powers, however they do not generate enough solar power to power the whole building, so on a lower level they have fuel cells which generate much of the other power needed. It was great to see the company not only work towards a more efficient and environmentally friendly future, but to actually use their own technology to show that it works effectively.

After visiting some of ERI@N’s labs around CleanTech One, we had six PhD students present their research to us to show what you can achieve whilst working at ERI@N. Similarly, after lunch we went to the school of physical and mathematical science where six of their PhD students presented their research. After hearing all about their research, we got to see where some of their research takes place. My favourite thing that we saw was a machine that uses quantum technology and lasers to cool down atoms and be able to catch them within a magnetic field. It was amazing to actually be able to see the cloud of atoms caught within the field. The machine itself was also visually stunning, as you would hope so for something that costs three to four million dollars.

After this all of the nanotechnology students from La Trobe were signed off and we were able to explore singapore for the weekend.

SIMTech and the school of Materials science

The first stop of the day was to SIMTech, which stands for the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology. The speaker there was really good as he went into a lot of detail about basically everything they do there. Giving us lots of information to help us with our reports, if we choose to write about them which is helpful.

Next we visited the School of Materials science and engineering for NTU (Nanyang Technological University). They had chicken and tuna sandwiches already waiting for us for lunch, which was nice, before being taught about their school and how things work. One of the more interesting things I found was It being the worlds biggest Engineering college.

Afterwards we  had 6 presentations from research students. The topics they talked about were: Nanomedicine for the eye, Biomimicry, Tissue engineering and Translational medicine, Synthesis of Nanoparticles, Nanosheets of Graphene, and Crystal growth of charge transfer compounds. The one I enjoyed most was about Tissue engineering, because as that technology gets better, no more animal testing will be required. We’ll be able to identify how a drug will affect humans without using anyone as a test subject.

After all of the presentations had finished, we were shown around the labs before heading back for the day.

SIMTech and NTU Day 1

On Thursday the 3rd of July we had the chance to visit another A Star research institute called SIMTech (Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology) located at NTU (Nanyang Technological University). SIMTech’s aim is to develop high value manufacturing technology to enhance the competitiveness of the manufacturing industry, to create intellectual properties, and to nurture research scientists. They have three divisions including manufacturing processing, manufacturing automation, and manufacturing systems. SIMTech’s research programs are very product orientated as Singapore wants new and advanced products being made in order to keep their manufacturing flourishing so there are more jobs and so the economy can continue to grow. Some of the areas that SIMTech research into include forming technologies, polymer/powder processing, machining technology, laser precision machining, surface technology, mechatronics, and many many other areas. It allows people of all areas of science to be able to research something that they are interested in.

After visiting a few of SIMTech’s laboratories and a quick lunch break, we headed over to the main NTU campus where we went to the Material Science and Engineering division of the university where we had a quick briefing about NTU before six students, five of them being PhD and one an honours student, spoke to us about their research. We learnt that NTU is on two-hundred hectares, has 1.1 million square metres of build up space, four-hundred-thousand square metres of academic space, and approximately thirty-three-thousand students. The materials science and engineering division mainly focus on defence materials, sports materials, nano materials, bio materials, polymer materials, and materials for sustainability.

All of the presentations that we were shown were very interesting, however three out of the six particularly grabbed my interest. The first one that I thoroughly enjoyed was about nanomedicide for ocular diseases and how they can be delivered. This was useful because instead of having to twice a month get a drug injected into your eye, they were trying to find ways in which the drug can be delivered without causing irritation and only twice yearly. The second presentation I found particularly interesting was about biomimicry. They were trying to replicate a material that is the same as the humboldt squids teeth that are in its suckers as it is a very strong substance that is completely made up of proteins similar to spiders silk. The third research I found interesting was a lab-on-a-chip concept which always interest me. They were trying to design a microfluidic platform for liver tissue engineering. The purpose of this is to be able to test new drugs in a chip that performs the same as a human liver in order to avoid having to test the drugs on animals such as rats inside a lab.

After our day at NTU was over, a group of us decided to venture into little india to visit some of the hawker markets and to see a side of Singapore that is completely different to what we have seen so far. It was good to see the side that hasn’t got all the new ultra modern buildings and to see what singapore was more like before the huge modernisation and westernisation set in. It was also a great chance to do some cheap shopping.

Friday!

Friday 4th July.

This morning we went back to Nanyang Technological University to have a tour around the Energy Research Institute at NTU (ERI@N) and then the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, and left from Starbucks at 9am.

When we arrived, Professor Choo Fook Hoong gave an introductory presentation about the Energy Research Institute at NTU (ERI@N). They collaborate with many large companies and they are very interested in alternative energy sources such as solar and hydrogen fuel cells. For me, this is an interesting research institute as I want to get into research of alternate energy sources.

Graduate students then gave lectures on their work about solar panels, fuel cells and different types of energy storage systems. Then we were shown some project displays and demos on wind and marine renewable energy and also alternate methods of cooling buildings. They have a few of these cooling systems installed in some of their buildings, one of the techniques used a modified roofing panel that had an evaporative cooling effect.

After the tour it was time for lunch and we were provided Subway which was delicious. We then caught a bus to the physical and mathematical sciences school where we were given presentations on their scholarship programs, and then some presentations from some of the researchers on topics such as; laser cooking and superconductor systems using cold atoms. To finish the day we had a tour around the labs, and one lab had a laser cooling setup with an active experiment where they had trapped atoms in a condensed point, which is a pretty amazing accomplishment, the experiment took 3 years to set up and around \$3 million to purchase the equipment.

That was the end of the day and I just went back to Utown and had an early night.

SIMTECH and NTU

We had to be ready by 8am this morning, so I got a small sleep in which was good. I tried that toast and eggs breakfast that I thought looked gross and it was surprisingly nice, I also got an iced milo. We met at Starbucks and caught public transport to SIMTECH which is at Nanyang Technilogical University. We were greeted by Wai Jun whom gave an introduction to SIMTECH and afterwards we were given a your around their facilities. Their main focus is on materials science, so it was very interesting to me and we got to see some of their 3D printers which was cool.

We then had delicious chicken subs with salad that was provided to us. Professor Tim White then gave us an introduction to the School of materials science and engineering followed by 6 presentations from graduate students which were all very interesting, the presentations varied from medicine to materials science.

After the presentations we were given a short tour of the FACTS lab, bio materials lab and the organic service lab. All of the laboratories have very up to date and high quality resources available to them.

The visit was completed and Trey, Paddy, both Nics, Norton and Gerad and I went to Little India and had dinner at a Hawker food centre and then went shopping at one of the markets close by.

NTU Part 1 3/07

Today was the first of a two day intensive tour of the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and facilities. It started out with an intensive presentation of the Singapore Institute of Material Technologies (SimTech). This gave me a greater understanding of how Singapore is able to be such a developed and rich country with no natural resources, unlike Australia. This presentation illustrated how Singapore is able to be a big competitor in manufacturing by taking advantage of its greatest resource, its citizens.

When the presentation concluded we made our way to the School of Materials Science and Engineering department of NTU. Here we were given presentations by PhD and Masters students on their research topics. The presentation I was most intrigued by was the study on the sucker teeth of the Humboldt Squid. This showed how nature has already beaten humans to the nanoworld by showing the structure of the teeth as being comprised of non-mineral nano-tubular proteins. From this I learnt that sometimes if you want to do something right, just look at nature.

To finish of the day we had a tour of the labs. Inside one we found a number of different electron microscopes with specific functions that I have yet to understand fully. The next stop was the Biomaterial Labs which was interesting seeing heat stints that have a layer over the actual stint and inside is a drug which gets released into the body to help cure the cardiac disease. The final lab visit was to the Organic Materials Service Lab. Inside was research into imprinting of biological cells onto a polymer film.

Nanyang Technological University

A common theme that has been appearing regularly throughout the study tour – and which was highlighted today during our tour of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) – is that of Singapore’s economic focus. That is, the country is generally devoid of any tradeable natural resources (such as coal, minerals etc.) or land for agriculture, and as such their main economic focus is in areas such as downstream raw materials processing, intellectual innovation, pharmaceutical development etc. As this is almost opposite to Australia’s economic focus (and, indeed, that of many other western countries as well), it is an approach which is quite foreign to me. Nevertheless, it appears to have been extremely successful, as evidenced by the rapid economic growth that the country has seen over the past five decades.
But I digress. With regards to my experiences today at NTU, I have found them to be, for the most part, quite insightful. Specifically, we were fortunate enough to be given short presentations highlighting the current research projects of six NTU graduate students. As I am in the biochemistry stream of the nanotechnology course, I particularly enjoyed the presentation on nano-medicine for the eye. In this presentation, the student (I don’t remember her name, but I will edit it in later) discussed a clever way of introducing drugs into the eye, with the specific focus being the treatment of macular degeneration in the elderly. The method involved the use of different nanoparticles as drug delivery capsules, designed to give a sustained, controlled release of the drug through the scleral region of the eye. Personally, I was captivated throughout the entire presentation, and it has given me renewed inspiration to pursue my biochemistry focus.

Arrival and a Problem

Due to my flight being late (about 70 minutes in the end) I arrived at Changi airport at 1900ish. The flight was somewhat painful because I was coughing and sneezing and to top it off, some diarrhoea as well. I apologised for my coughing to the girl sitting next to me, who pointed to her throat and whispered “I’ve lost my voice.” We had both just finished exams and got sick almost straight after, and agreed all the stress and instant food had taken its toll. She was a Singaporean international student studying to be a veterinarian in Melbourne.

After collecting my pack, I made my way to the MRT (Mass Rapid Transport), the Singaporean train system, and bought an EZ-Link card (a functioning equivalent to a myki card). While waiting for the train, a girl with heavy looking luggage sat next to me and asked where I was going. I explained I was heading to a hostel on Lavender Street, and she said that was the station after hers.

She asked if I was on holiday, so I told her I was here to do a two week long subject through my home university, and would move to the National University of Singapore campus upon its commencement in three days time. I explained I was studying nanotechnology, focusing on physics and biochemistry. She told me she was from China and was a PhD student in mathematics at NTU, another university here. While we were in transit I asked her to explain her research to me.

The stable marriage problem.

We want to find a stable matching between elements of two equally sized sets. i.e a one-to-one mapping from one set to the other set. So given two sets $S$ and $T$ of $n$ elements, each element orders the elements of the other set preferentially from 1 to $n$. So an element $s_i$ will rank the elements of $T$, $\left \{t_1,t_2,..,t_n \right \}$ and an element $t_j$ will rank the elements of $S$, $\left \{s_1,s_2,..,s_n \right \}$.

An element from each of the two sets gives a pairing $(s_i,t_j)$. Given a second pair $(s_k,t_l)$, where $s_i$ prefers $t_l$ above $t_j$ and $t_l$ prefers $s_i$ above $s_i$ does not exist, then the match is stable.

This can be put in a less formal way by considering a matchmaker with two equally sized groups of men and women to be paired off (yes, this is highly heteronormative). Each man ranks each woman according to preference and vice versa. No man and woman must prefer each other to their current partners for matches to be stable. Intuitively, this makes sense, it may result in infidelity and therefore be unstable.

This problem may seem overly simplistic and unrealistic (at least in our society), but it is used in real-world situations such as placing graduating medical students in hospitals. The solution in use has a number of rounds in which the members of one group act as proposers (hospitals) and the individuals in the other group act as acceptors. The proposers have an advantage as they start at their first preference and work their way through their list, whereas the acceptors have to wait for a proposal. It’s possible that current work being done on this problem is to find a more equitable solution.