Engineering scholars gain accolades


Power up: Dr Sin posing with the advanced photocatalytic technology project that won the team a silver medal

DESPITE social distancing restrictions, receiving academic awards do not take a back seat at the Faculty of Engineering and Green Technology (FEGT) of Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR).

In May, students from the faculty were seen winning gold and silver medals at the Perlis International Engineering Invention Innovation Exhibition (Pi-ENVEX) 2020, while in June, two silver and one bronze were clinched at the National Innovation and Invention Competition through Exhibition 2020 (iCompEx’2020).

Both competitions were held via online platforms.

The Pi-ENVEX 2020, a competition-cum-exhibition of new discovery research, is aimed at bringing together young researchers, scientists and inventors from all around the world. The event is an opportunity for the participants to present their research projects.

The exhibition was co-organised by Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP), Center of Excellence Geopolymer and Green Technology (CEGeoGtech) and ENVEX Young Researcher Club (EYReC) UniMAP (MINDS Chapter) from May 18 to 21.

The two winning teams from UTAR that took part in the Agriculture & Environmental and Renewable Energy category, were supervised by Assoc Prof Dr Lam Sze Mun and Assoc Prof Dr Sin Jin Chung. This was the faculty’s first participation in the prestigious competition.

The gold medal team consisted of degree students Chai Yen Yi and Ng Hao Yu, and Masters student Choong Man Kit. Their winning project was titled “Photocatalytic Fuel Cell for Sustainable Wastewater Treatment and Bacteria Disinfection Synchronised with Electricity Production”.

“Our team’s research utilises the photocatalytic fuel cell system for degradation of wastewater and simultaneous electricity generation. It is a green technology that will contribute towards sustainable development as the end products of the process are harmless carbon dioxide and water. It is a multifunctional system that is also capable of disinfecting bacteria. As environmental engineering students, we aim to use green technology and energy to treat wastewater. Our system is able to achieve this.

“Our team is very grateful to our supervisors for their guidance on this project. As a team, we worked very well together. I am also grateful to my teammates. I am happy we won this category and we are glad to represent UTAR in this competition, ” said team leader Yen Yi.

The silver medal team on the other hand, consisted of degree students Low Yu Zheng and Chang Jia Cheng, and PhD student Chin Ying Hui. Their winning project was titled “Advanced Photocatalytic Technology for Palm Oil Mill Effluent Degradation with Simultaneous Biogas Generation”.

“Our research utilises light-activated semiconductor catalysts to degrade the organic pollutants in wastewater, such as Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME), and produce biogas at the same time. The most attractive part of this research is that only sunlight is required for the photocatalytic reaction. It then converts solar energy into chemical energy for environmental remediation and biogas production. With these criteria, this research is beneficial to Malaysia as it is cost-effective and eco-friendly. It can be used for environmental remediation and clean energy fuel production, ” explained team leader Yu Zheng.

Meanwhile, the iCompEx’2020 is a competition and exhibition of innovation for new discovery.

Organised by Politeknik Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah on July 21, the annual competition is designed specially to provide a platform for young researchers to present their innovations. The iCompEx’2020 was launched in 2013.

This competition saw participation from three UTAR teams.

Degree students Loo Gaik Eng and Ang Chin Wei, and Masters student Tan Kor Yin, supervised by lecturer Dr Toh Pey Yi, were the silver medal team. Their project, titled “POME Post-treatment by Using Microalgae”, aimed to study the waste quality of POME after it has been treated by microalgae through different cultivation methods.

“The competition encouraged me to think out-of-the-box and come up with several creative and innovative solutions which could be helpful in my continued involvement in research. I am proud and happy to be able to participate in this research and development project, which has enabled us to showcase our successful inventions in the field of sustainable green technology, ” said Gaik Eng.

Another silver medal team, degree students Vanessa Ng Wen Yi and Loo Diing Khang presented their project titled “Cellulose-Plast — Plastic for Tomorrow”.

Supervised by Dr Teoh Yi Peng@Teng Yi Peng and Dr M. Mathialagan, the team’s project aimed to extract, isolate and characterise the cellulose from the empty fruit bunch (EFB) of oil palm and treat the EFB waste and apply them in a polymer composite to produce an efficient and desirable product.

Dr Teoh said: “This work was financially supported by the UTAR Research Fund. We would also like to thank United Oil Palm Industries for the raw material supplied and UTAR for providing financial support for these students’ activity. They gained good exposure at the exhibition.”

“Having the experience of presenting my work has helped me gain more confidence in what I do. Being more confident allows me to aim for greater heights, not only academically but also in everyday life.

“It has been a great opportunity to be able to share my work and progress with experienced individuals and to know where I stand among others so that I can look out for any further improvement needed for my work. This is a good chance to get people to notice my work. You never know if your work could be of great help to society and the environment, ” said Wen Yi.

Last but not least, the bronze medal team, supervised by Assoc Prof Dr M. Yamuna and Dr Mathialagan, comprised degree students D. Krishnaah and N. Patmashini Saii.

Their project titled “DeCrosslinked ProNBR” seeks to reclaim gum stock rubber from waste tyres using the industrial applicable method, producing new rubber products from the reclaimed gum stock rubber and changing “cradle-to-grave” lifecycle of the tyre to “cradle-to- cradle” lifecycle.

Krishnaah said: “Recycling is one of the keys to unlocking the path to a more sustainable future. Our project attempts to recycle something that is not recyclable. It was worth the hard work. The competition opens up the possibilities of innovation available around the world. It helps students to observe possible ways to innovate in the engineering field.”

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