Students develop solar cone and other energy-efficient projects under new initiative

Tan Shu Yan Straits Times 3 Apr 18;

SINGAPORE - A locally designed solar cone, which absorbs more than five times the solar energy compared to a solar panel, could help generate energy for residential use and reduce utility costs.

The solar cone, or Scone, has an inverted conical shape and has special lenses that maximise energy absorption onto a solar cell, harnessing more energy per unit area.

As it is compact in size compared to a conventional flat solar panel, Scone also addresses the problem of an increasing lack of suitable rooftop space for solar energy generation.

If it is installed on the rooftops of residential units, more heat can be absorbed and converted into thermal energy, which can be channelled into the heating of water for residential usage. This could reduce the cost of energy for residents.

The prototype was showcased on Tuesday (April 3) at the launch of ideaBox, a platform which offers Singapore Polytechnic (SP) students the space and resources to concretise their ideas into energy and cost-saving technologies.

An initiative by SP and energy utilities provider Singapore Power Group (SP Group), ideaBox selects ideas with potential from tertiary-level students at ideation competitions, and passes them to SP students to translate into product prototypes.

A 200 sq m space in the polytechnic has been carved out to allow students to work on their projects and receive guidance from industry experts.

SP Group has pledged its support in mentoring students in areas like engineering, design and media, and will also provide S$1 million in funding over the next three years.

Mr Wong Kim Yin, group chief executive officer of SP Group, said: “We are committed to drive research and innovation that benefit consumers, helping them to save energy and cost. We strengthen our collaboration with Singapore Polytechnic by exposing their students to real-world challenges, test out new ideas and build solutions to implement their ideas.”

The idea behind Scone was first presented by a group of five students from various tertiary institutions at the Singapore Frontier Challenge last September.

The project came in second in the competition, after Cloud Nine, which utilises rainwater collected on rooftops of high rise buildings to generate electrical energy. Cloud Nine has also been prototyped at ideaBox, and is preparing for field deployment in the next three months.

Ms Ting Qi Yu, 24, one of the students who conceptualised Scone, said: “It’s good that they continued to expand our idea, and it’s exciting to visualise an idea that eventually became real.”

The three polytechnic students working on Scone hope to continue developing the prototype.

“This is just the start, and maybe it will take some time to be released into the market. From now, we hope to just do further research on how to improve the product,” said Mr Lester Loh, 19, who is starting his third year in electrical and electronic engineering at SP.

A national inter-polytechnic ideation competition, sponsored by SP Group, will be organised by SP this June. Promising ideas there could also be considered for prototyping at ideaBox.