Accelerating low-carbon energy research at NUS

Research endeavours at NUS to spearhead innovations in low-carbon technologies have received a shot in the arm recently in the form of funding from the Low-Carbon Energy Research (LCER) Programme, a national initiative that supports research and development of emerging low-carbon energy alternatives that have the potential to help reduce Singapore’s carbon footprint.

Seven NUS projects have successfully competed for research funding under Phase 2 of the LCER programme. Collectively, these projects aim to accelerate the technical and economic viability of low-carbon energy technologies in areas such as hydrogen and carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS). These are part of the 16 projects that will receive a total investment of around S$55 million to develop capabilities in various low-carbon energy areas, as announced by Second Minister for Trade and Industry Dr Tan See Leng on 1 March 2024.

The LCER Programme also aims to future-proof translational efforts to widen the nation’s efforts across the low-carbon energy R&D spectrum. In Phase 2 of the Programme, research funding is awarded through the Direct Hydrogen Programme (DHP) and Emerging Technology Grant Call (ETGC). A total of six DHP projects have been awarded around S$43 million and 10 ETGC projects have been awarded S$12 million, of which one DHP project and six ETGC projects are led by NUS researchers.

Contributing to a future-proof hydrogen infrastructure

Projects awarded under DHP aim to support Singapore’s National Hydrogen Strategy by developing hydrogen-related technologies that tackle the current challenges of importing, storing and distributing hydrogen as a low-carbon energy source.

To help Singapore achieve its goal of developing a robust hydrogen supply chain, a team led by Assistant Professor Zhang Huangwei from the Department of Mechanical Engineering under the NUS College of Design and Engineering (CDE) will develop an integrated prototype system that can crack and combust ammonia more efficiently for power generation. This approach will increase overall energy efficiency and also reduce the land footprint for cracking, which is critical for Singapore.

Supporting emerging low-carbon energy research

Projects awarded under ETGC will focus on emergent and promising technologies that harness low-carbon energy sources.

Six NUS projects have been awarded funding under ETGC. These projects support the Singapore Energy Story through the research and development of up-and-coming technologies in low-carbon energy areas like hydrogen, CCUS and related areas.

To develop energy and space efficient carbon capture technologies, Assistant Professor Mao Xianwen from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering under NUS CDE will be working with his team to find solutions to capture diluted flue gas from power generation facilities and use electrochemically mediated carbon capture concepts.

Another NUS research project led by Professor Barbaros Oezyilmaz, who is from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering under NUS CDE, will adopt electrically-powered absorbents to capture carbon dioxide from low-concentration sources.

Contributing to achieving a circular economy is a team led by Associate Professor Koh Ming Joo from the Department of Chemistry under NUS Faculty of Science, which will work on upcycling carbon dioxide and plastics through carbon-negative processes using cost-effective base metal catalysis.

To promote carbon utilisation, a research team led by Associate Professor Li Zhi from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering under NUS CDE are looking into engineering enzymes that turn carbon dioxide into useful chemicals with enhanced activity and stability.

In the area of utilising hydrogen as a low-carbon energy source, Assistant Professor Zhao Ming from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering under NUS CDE is leading a team to develop new electricity-powered catalysts to extract hydrogen from ammonia through a process known as ‘cracking’.

Taking innovation for low-carbon energy technologies to the next level is a team led by Associate Professor Soh Siow Ling from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering under NUS CDE, which will explore using advanced materials to harvest electricity from rain droplets, providing an innovative way for tropical countries like Singapore to generate renewable electricity from rainfall.

These projects will see NUS researchers combining expertise and efforts with partners from academia and industry to develop innovations in support of Singapore’s transition towards low-carbon energy alternatives.