Fascinating finds: what kind of research goes on in our local unis?

There’s always a lot of buzz when prominent global university rankings (QS, Times Higher Education, etc) are released. Schools like NUS and NTU have consistently made these lists in recent years, and one metric is research (output/excellence).

This got the Digital Senior team a little curious: what kind of research goes on in our local unis? If you, like us, wonder what’s been brewing, we’ve done our own spot of research. Here’s a short list!

Cool clothes

Your old unwanted clothes could soon be made cool again—but in a way you don’t quite expect! A research team at NUS has pioneered the development of aerogels (porous, solid materials used for a wide range of applications, ranging from spacecrafts to oil-spill cleanup kits) from cotton-based fabric waste.

Eco-friendly, this light yet incredibly strong “supermaterial” can also be created quickly: according to Assoc Prof Duong, co-leader of the research team, the cotton aerogel can be made within 8 hours. Uses include heat insulation in jackets and flasks, as well as haemorrhage control. As the team is exploring commercial opportunities, we’re looking forward to the day when we can see this new aerogel work its magic!

The little powerhouse

Pollen is a nightmare for those who are allergic to it, but an NTU Research Team, in collaboration with the Samsung Medical Centre, has found a surprising use for this humble grain’s shell: when cleared of the materials within, it can be used to house drug compounds.

This makes it an affordable, natural and sustainable alternative to synthetic microcapsules, the hardy shell protecting drug molecules from being destroyed by the stomach’s strong gastric acids.

We certainly never knew pollen was this amazing!

A fair balance

Having gender diversity in businesses could be a key factor in a business’s performance. At least, this is what a study from NUS has discovered.

Their findings, based on the analysis of the data of 500 Singapore-listed companies, posit that a company’s financial performance would increase by 11.8%… if the average number of female independent directors on boards was one woman stronger. This is based on Tobin’s Q-ratio, which you can learn more about here.

Shape shifting robot cleaners

In a couple of years, we might see mini-sized Transformers scattered around our tiny island and  be totally chill about it.  Huh, we can hear you thinking, what have these folks been smoking?

We’re talking about autonomous cleaning robots created by a team at SUTD! Unlike typical cleaning robots, the robot prototype (called hTetro) designed by SUTD can disassemble and reassemble itself to reach hard to clean areas. Work to make them even better, such as giving them the ability to take microscopic images of dust in order to assess the cleanliness of an area, is also underway.

A hTetro prototype at work. (Video belongs to Dr. Mohan Rajesh Elara, lead researcher at SUTD)

If all goes on schedule, we could very well see these robots in the market and in our hawker centres, helping us keep Singapore clean and green.

Noise no more

If you like your room peaceful and quiet, away from the sounds of renovation works, this will be music to your ears. Researchers from NTU have developed noise cancellation technology, in the form of a device that can be mounted onto window grilles.

It works to reduce up to 50% of external noise pollution through an adaptation of the “active noise control” technology present in our headphones and earphones. What’s more, it even works to detect the noise even before it reaches your windows with the help of a microphone! So stuff actually happens in real time and (seemingly) in the blink of an eye.

The team is working to see on further improving the efficiency of this technology. Personally, we can’t wait to see this be used! I mean, there’s nothing more distracting than loud unwanted noises when studying… or sleeping the day away. Yawn.

Plastic pollution be gone

The wonders of 3d printing have been now made known to the large majority, but it could become even better!  A new material, developed by SUTD Assistant Professor Javier Gomez Fernandez and SUTD’s Fermart Lab, does not require composting. The material is not only entirely biodegradable, but can also be recycled and turned into other products or grinded and put back into the system!

The material, according to Asst. Prof Fernandez, comprises a “fungal-like additive material”, made up of cellulose and a fibrous substance called chitin.

This eco-friendly material could greatly reduce the amount of waste material generated from 3D printing, which is often “unprocessable”.

And there you have it, a quick taster of what’s been up in our universities! If you know of any fascinating research developments and don’t mind sharing about them with us, do drop us a message or leave a comment below!

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