February 28, 2024

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Singapore-based researchers develop daylight harvesting smart device

Image credit: www.ntu.edu.sg/Pages/home.aspx

A team of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) researchers has designed a smart device to harvest daylight and relay it to underground spaces, reducing the need to draw on traditional energy sources for lighting.

In Singapore, authorities are looking at the feasibility of digging deeper underground to create new space for infrastructure, storage, and utilities. Demand for round-the-clock underground lighting is therefore expected to rise in the future.

To develop a daylight harvesting device that can sustainably meet this need, the team drew inspiration from the magnifying glass, which can be used to focus sunlight into one point. They used an off-the-shelf acrylic ball, a single plastic optical fibre – a type of cable that carries a beam of light from one end to another – and computer chip-assisted motors. The device sits above ground and just like the lens of a magnifying glass, the acrylic ball acts as the solar concentrator, enabling parallel rays of sunlight to form a sharp focus at its opposite side. The focused sunlight is then collected into one end of a fibre cable and transported along with it to the end that is deployed underground. Light is then emitted via the end of the fibre cable directly. At the same time, small motors – assisted by computer chips – automatically adjust the position of the fibre’s collecting end, to optimise the amount of sunlight that can be received and transported as the sun moves across the sky.

The device overcomes several limitations of current solar harvesting technology. In conventional solar concentrators, large, curved mirrors are moved by heavy-duty motors to align the mirror dish to the sun. The components in those systems are also exposed to environmental factors like moisture, increasing maintenance requirements.

The lead author of the study says their innovation comprises commercially available off-the-shelf materials, making it potentially very easy to fabricate at scale. Due to space constraints in densely populated cities, they have intentionally designed the daylight harvesting system to be lightweight and compact. This would make it convenient for the device to be incorporated into existing infrastructure in the urban environment.

The team believes the device is ideally suited to be mounted as a conventional lamp post above ground. This would enable the innovation to be used in two ways: a device to harvest sunlight in the day to light up underground spaces, and a streetlamp to illuminate above ground at night using electricity.

The research by the scientists is an example of the university’s Smart Campus vision that aims to develop technologically advanced solutions for a sustainable future.

Moreover, a Singapore-based design-focused agency specialising in lighting, and the industry collaborator of the research study said that it is their privilege and honour to take this innovation journey with the developers. While they have the commercial and application knowledge, the developers’ in-depth know-how from a technical perspective has taken the execution of the project to the next level that is beyond expectations. Moving forward, the lighting company is exploring ways to potentially incorporate the smart device or its related concepts into its industrial projects for improved efficiency and sustainability.

Accordingly, reports say that Singapore’s focus on research and test-bedding is to improve the performance of solar systems and develop innovative ways of integrating solar energy systems into our urban environment.

As part of the country’s efforts to continually explore new options for energy supply and enhance our energy security, Singapore is exploring a variety of different options, including regional power grids, and emerging low-carbon alternatives such as low-carbon hydrogen and carbon capture, utilisation, and storage. While some existing technologies such as nuclear may not be viable today, we will continue to monitor the progress of nuclear energy technologies and build capabilities to better understand nuclear science and technology.

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CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

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SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

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HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

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IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.

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