Its lush 200-hectare Yunnan Garden campus was the Youth Olympic Village of the world’s first 2010 Summer Youth Olympics in 2010.
Ranked 41st globally by QS World University Rankings in 2013, NTU has made a jump of 36 places in the last four years to become the fastest rising university in the QS global top 50. NTU is ranked 2nd in the world among young elite universities, according to QS Top 50 Under 50. NTU is ranked 76th worldwide in 2013 by Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
As of November 2013, Microsoft Academic Search website ranks NTU’s overall engineering, according to the number publications and H-Index criteria, as the world’s 10th since the last 5 years. QS World University Rankings rated NTU’s Engineering and Technology as 14th in the world (3rd in Asia) in 2013 while Times Higher Education World University Rankings place NTU in the 33rd position (7th in Asia) according to its 2013–2014 Engineering and Technology subject ranking. Furthermore, QS World University Rankings 2013 rated NTU’s Social Sciences as 36th worldwide (6th in Asia) and NTU’s Natural Sciences has moved up by 43 positions to 55th position (11th in Asia); Arts & Humanities is ranked 13th position and Life Sciences & Medicine is ranked 25th position in Asia.
According to the 2013 Thomson Reuters report on research citations, NTU has catapulted to 2nd in Asia for research citation impact, second only to University of Tokyo. Times Higher Education ranked NTU 1st in the world for industry income and innovation in 2013.
Nanyang Technological University (NTU) research articles from Innovation Toronto
- A Thermal Invisibility Cloak Actively Redirects Heat – September 27, 2015
- Observing nano-bio interactions in real time – September 20, 2015
- Scientists from NTU Singapore find electrifying solution to sticky problem – August 26, 2015
- Engineered Antibody Neutralizes All Four Dengue Serotypes – July 30, 2015
- NTU scientists discover new treatment for dementia – April 13, 2015
- Optical fibres light the way for brain-like computing – March 12, 2015
- A new weapon in war against flu pandemics and pneumonia – February 15, 2015
- World’s first compact rotary 3D printer-cum-scanner unveiled at AAAS by NTU Singapore start-up – February 15, 2015
- NTU invents smart window that tints and powers itself – December 18, 2014
- Innovative process to print flexible electronic circuits using a t-shirt printer – November 18, 2014
- NTU develops ultra-fast charging batteries that last 20 years – big change coming – October 14, 2014
- Breakthrough in rapid diagnostics: using magnets to test for malaria – September 13, 2014
- Innovative multifunction membranes improve water filtration rate by 10x – September 13, 2014
- Flexible supercapacitor could have big advantages over batteries for wearable devices – May 12, 2014
- NTU scientists discover material that can be solar cell by day, light panel by night
- NTU scientists discover potential vaccine for malaria
- Genetically engineered bacteria can be used to attack other bacterial species
- NTU to trial Singapore’s first driverless vehicle on the roads
- NTU invention transforms plain surfaces into low-cost touch screens
- NTU invention allows clear photos in dim light
- Nanomedicine could outdo surgery
- Compact multipurpose scooter for crowded megacities
- NTU scientist develops a multi-purpose wonder material to tackle environmental challenges
- Revolutionary Laser Cooling System
- NTU’s ‘sense-ational’ invention helps underwater vessels navigate with ease
- Nothing goes to waste when visiting green toilet NTU researchers green loo uses less water, recycles human waste
- Primate study provides positive sign for the safety of nanomedicine
- Revolutionary Chipset for High-Speed Wireless Data Transfer
- Computing experts unveil superefficient ‘inexact’ chip
- Superbug-killing coating “magnetically” draws in bacteria
- Hong Kong University Makes Breakthrough in Gastrointestinal Treatment
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has developed a new material that will make vehicles and buildings cooler and quieter compared to current insulation materials in the market.
Known as aerogel composites, this new foam insulates against heat 2.6 times better than conventional insulation foam.
When compared to traditional materials used in soundproofing, it can block out 80 per cent of outside noise, 30 per cent more than the usual ones.
Made from silica aerogels with a few other additives, this new material is now ready for commercialisation and is expected to hit the market early next year. The promising product has the potential to be used in a wide range of applications, including in building and construction, oil and gas and the automotive industry.
The aerogel composites took NTU Assoc Prof Sunil Chandrankant Joshi and his then-PhD student, Dr Mahesh Sachithanadam, four years to develop. The technology had been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals and a patent has been filed by NTU’s innovation and enterprise arm NTUitive.
A local company, Bronx Creative & Design Center Pte Ltd (BDC), has licensed this aerogel composites technology with a joint venture of S$7 million (USD$5.2 million), and a production plant that will be operational by 2017.
It will produce the aerogel composites in various forms such as sheets or panels, in line with current industry sizes.
Assoc Prof Sunil said the foam will be easy to install and use as it is thinner than conventional foam yet has better performance.
“Our NTU thin foam is also greener to manufacture, as it does not require high heat treatment or toxic materials in its production. It is therefore a lot more eco-friendly and less hazardous to the environment,” explained Prof Sunil who is from NTU’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
Mr Thomas Ng, R&D Director of BDC, said this new material could address a real market need for high-performance heat insulation and better sound proofing.
“With the global industries moving towards green manufacturing and a lowered carbon footprint, the new foam we produce will help address their needs and yet give a better performance,” Mr Ng said.
“Moving forward, we hope to show the current market that going green doesn’t mean that performance has to be compromised. We will be working with industry partners and certified testing labs to achieve the relevant standards and certifications.
“BDC has plans to have a footprint locally as we are now in talks with a few local parties to make this happen, in line with Singapore’s vision of being a global leader in the Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering sector,” he added.
BDC has various negotiations underway with other companies to expand the production to India and various Southeast Asia countries within the next three years.
High Performance Foam
The new aerogel composite has been branded “Bronx AeroSil” by BDC and is being developed for various applications by Dr Mahesh, now the Chief Technology Officer at BDC.
For example, to reduce the noise generated by a truck driving by to that of a normal conversation, only 15mm of the new material would be needed. On the other hand, common insulation foam requires a thickness of 25mm.
The aerogel composite can reduce noise by as much as 80 per cent whereas normal foam only reduces sound by 50 per cent, explained Dr Mahesh.
Against heat, Bronx AeroSil which is 50 per cent thinner than conventional foam will still out-perform it by 37 per cent.
“For both heat insulation and sound-proofing, we can now use less material to achieve the same effect, which will also lower the overall material and logistic costs,” Dr Mahesh said.
Apart from being a good thermal and acoustic insulator, it is also non-flammable – a crucial factor for materials used in high heat environments common in the oil and gas industries.
It is also resilient and can withstand high compression or heavy loads. A small 10cm by 10cm piece of the aerogel composite material weighing just 15 grams can take up to 300 kilogrammes of weight, maintaining its shape without being flattened.
In the first quarter of next year, BDC will begin mass producing the aerogel composites for their clients, which include companies from the automotive, electronics, and oil and gas sectors.
Further research and optimisation would be carried out to improve the performance of the aerogel composite material to ensure it maintains its competitiveness edge against other technologies, said Dr Mahesh.
A*STAR scientists have developed a unique fast-pulsing fiber laser that has the widest wavelength output to date1. This type of laser could replace several fixed-wavelength lasers and form the basis of compact devices useful for a range of medical and military applications.
The team developed an all-fiber laser, constructed similarly to a fiber-optic cable. The key component is a glass tube, whose core is doped with atoms that act as a gain medium — a material from which energy is transferred to boost the output power of the laser — through which light particles, or ‘photons’, travel. The doping atoms are selected according to the specific wavelengths of light that they will absorb, store and then release, creating an efficient, controllable output beam.
“To date, most tunable all-fiber pulsed lasers achieve a maximum tuning range of about 50 nanometers,” says Xia Yu from the A*STAR Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology, who worked on the project with her team and her collaborator Qijie Wang from Nanyang Technological University. “We have achieved a widely-tunable laser in the mid-infrared wavelength band, with a range of 136 nanometers (from 1,842 to 1,978 nanometers). We used thulium as the doping atom; this generates a laser that operates in the eye-safe range, meaning it could have medical and military applications.”
The researchers combined two techniques to create their laser and ensure the output was tunable. They used nonlinear polarization evolution, a filtering effect that picks out pulses of light at the desired wavelength and channels them into the output beam. This simultaneously ensures that the output can be adjusted to a specific wavelength while generating ultrafast pulsed light. They also used bidirectional pumping — injecting energy into the gain medium from both ends of the fiber — to ensure a high optical power for as wide a range of wavelengths as possible. The gain occurs when thulium ions are excited to higher-energy states; they then release more photons when they return to lower-energy states.
A future of soft robots that wash your dishes or smart T-shirts that power your cell phone may depend on the development of stretchy power sources. But traditional batteries are thick and rigid — not ideal properties for materials that would be used in tiny malleable devices. In a step toward wearable electronics, a team of researchers has produced a stretchy micro-supercapacitor using ribbons of graphene.
The researchers will present their work today at the 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS, the world’s largest scientific society, is holding the meeting here through Thursday. It features more than 9,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics.
“Most power sources, such as phone batteries, are not stretchable. They are very rigid,” says Xiaodong Chen, Ph.D. “My team has made stretchable electrodes, and we have integrated them into a supercapacitor, which is an energy storage device that powers electronic gadgets.”
Supercapacitors, developed in the 1950s, have a higher power density and longer life cycle than standard capacitors or batteries. And as devices have shrunk, so too have supercapacitors, bringing into the fore a generation of two-dimensional micro-supercapacitors that are integrated into cell phones, computers and other devices. However, these supercapacitors have remained rigid, and are thus a poor fit for soft materials that need to have the ability to elongate.
In this study, Chen of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and his team sought to develop a micro-supercapacitor from graphene. This carbon sheet is renowned for its thinness, strength and conductivity. “Graphene can be flexible and foldable, but it cannot be stretched,” he says. To fix that, Chen’s team took a cue from skin. Skin has a wave-like microstructure, Chen says. “We started to think of how we could make graphene more like a wave.”
The researchers’ first step was to make graphene micro-ribbons. Most graphene is produced with physical methods — like shaving the tip of a pencil — but Chen uses chemistry to build his material. “We have more control over the graphene’s structure and thickness that way,” he explains. “It’s very difficult to control that with the physical approach. Thickness can really affect the conductivity of the electrodes and how much energy the supercapacitor overall can hold.”
The next step was to create the stretchable polymer chip with a series of pyramidal ridges. The researchers placed the graphene ribbons across the ridges, creating the wave-like structure. The design allowed the material to stretch without the graphene electrodes of the superconductor detaching, cracking or deforming. In addition, the team developed kirigami structures, which are variations of origami folds, to make the supercapacitors 500 percent more flexible without decaying their electrochemical performance. As a final test, Chen has powered an LCD from a calculator with the stretchy graphene-based micro-supercapacitor. Similarly, such stretchy supercapacitors can be used in pressure or chemical sensors.
In future experiments, the researchers hope to increase the electrode’s surface area so it can hold even more energy. The current version only stores enough energy to power LCD devices for a minute, he says.
New concrete to reduce time needed for road works by more than half
Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) scientists from the NTU-JTC Industrial Infrastructure Innovation Centre (I³C) have invented a new type of concrete called ConFlexPave that is bendable yet stronger and longer lasting than regular concrete which is heavy, brittle and breaks under tension.
This innovation allows the creation of slim precast pavement slabs for quick installation, thus halving the time needed for road works and new pavements. It is also more sustainable, requiring less maintenance.
NTU Professor Chu Jian, Interim Co-Director of the NTU-JTC I³C, said, “We developed a new type of concrete that can greatly reduce the thickness and weight of precast pavement slabs, hence enabling speedy plug-and-play installation, where new concrete slabs prepared off-site can easily replace worn out ones.”
Mr Koh Chwee, Director, Technical Services Division of JTC and Co-Director of the NTU-JTC I3C, said that the invention of this game-changing technology will not only enable the construction industry to reduce labour intensive on-site work, enhance workers’ safety and reduce construction time, it also benefits road users by cutting down the inconvenience caused by road resurfacing and construction works.
“Through collaborations with universities such as NTU in research and development of disruptive technologies, JTC hopes to pioneer cutting-edge industrial infrastructure solutions to address challenges faced by Singapore and its companies such as manpower and resource constraints. We will continue to open up more of our buildings and estates to test-bed and if successful, implement such new solutions,” Mr Koh added.
How bendable concrete works
Typical concrete comprises cement, water, gravel and sand. While this mixture makes concrete hard and strong, it does not promote flexibility. Thus concrete is brittle and prone to cracks if too much weight is applied.
ConFlexPave is specifically engineered to have certain types of hard materials mixed with polymer microfibres. The inclusion of these special synthetic fibres, besides allowing the concrete to flex and bend under tension, also enhances skid resistance.
The key breakthrough was understanding how the components of the materials interact with one another mechanically on a microscopic level, said Asst Prof Yang En-Hua from NTU’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering who leads this research at the NTU-JTC I³C.
“With detailed understanding, we can then deliberately select ingredients and engineer the tailoring of components, so our final material can fulfill specific requirements needed for road and pavement applications,” explained Prof Yang.
“The hard materials give a non-slip surface texture while the microfibres which are thinner than the width of a human hair, distribute the load across the whole slab, resulting in a concrete that is tough as metal and at least twice as strong as conventional concrete under bending,” he added.
Mini midbrains provide next generation platforms to investigate human brain biology, diseases and therapeutics
Scientists in Singapore have made a big leap on research on the ‘mini-brain’. These advanced mini versions of the human midbrain will help researchers develop treatments and conduct other studies into Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and ageing-related brain diseases.
These mini midbrain versions are three-dimensional miniature tissues that are grown in the laboratory and they have certain properties of specific parts of the human brains. This is the first time that the black pigment neuromelanin has been detected in an organoid model. The study also revealed functionally active dopaminergic neurons.
The human midbrain, which is the information superhighway, controls auditory, eye movements, vision and body movements. It contains special dopaminergic neurons that produce dopamine – which carries out significant roles in executive functions, motor control, motivation, reinforcement, and reward. High levels of dopamine elevate motor activity and impulsive behaviour, whereas low levels of dopamine lead to slowed reactions and disorders like PD, which is characterised by stiffness and difficulties in initiating movements.
A material whose optical properties can be modified on a small scale by laser light promises a wide range of applications
Properties of small areas of a versatile optical film can be tweaked by applying ultrashort pulses of laser light, A*STAR researchers show1. This tunability makes the material suitable for various light-based applications, from lenses to holograms.
When the shutter button on a camera is depressed, it focuses by electrically adjusting the positions of the constituent parts of the lens. Similarly, the parameters of optical components in many devices and scientific instruments are adjusted by moving their parts, or by stretching or heating them. Being able to use light to adjust optical components would offer many advantages, including fast response and easy integration into small and robust systems.
Now, such an optically adjustable system has been developed by Qian Wang of the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering and co-workers, along with collaborators at the University of Southampton, UK, and the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
The team studied a material widely used in CD and DVD disks — chalcogenide glass. In rewritable CD and DVD data-storage devices, microsecond or nanosecond (10−9 second) laser pulses are used to switch the medium between two states — crystalline and disordered. In contrast, Wang and her team used a tightly controlled series of much shorter femtosecond (10−15second) optical pulses to set the glass into incremental states between completely crystalline and completely disordered. By scanning the focused laser beam across the glass film, they could modify regions as small as about 0.6 micrometers (see image).
A finding by a University of Central Florida researcher that unlocks a means of controlling materials at the nanoscale and opens the door to a new generation of manufacturing is featured online today in the journal Nature.
Using a pair of pliers in each hand and gradually pulling taut a piece of glass fiber coated in plastic, associate professor Ayman Abouraddy found that something unexpected and never before documented occurred – the inner fiber fragmented in an orderly fashion.
“What we expected to see happen is NOT what happened,” he said. “While we thought the core material would snap into two large pieces, instead it broke into many equal-sized pieces.”
He referred to the technique in the Nature article as “Breaking Me Softly.”
The process of pulling fibers to force the realignment of the molecules that hold them together, known as cold drawing, has been the standard for mass production of flexible fibers like plastic and nylon for most of the last century.
Abouraddy and his team have shown that the process may also be applicable to multi-layered materials, a finding that could lead to the manufacturing of a new generation of materials with futuristic attributes.
A new glue that forms a strong bond when activated by low voltage electricity may be the first of its kind.
Researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore believe the adhesive may be a game-changer in manufacturing fields as diverse as biological implants and automobiles.
The new adhesive is a liquid gel that “cures” to form a polymer bond when a voltage of less than two volts is passed through it. Curing is the amount of time it takes for a glue to reach full strength after it dries. The glue stops curing as soon as the current is turned off. Users can fine-tune the bond’s strength and flexibility by varying the current’s voltage and duration.
The bonding agent is a light, low-viscosity flowing liquid that allows users to coat and exactly position the materials to be joined. Applying voltage to the gel then rapidly cures it to a strong bond with high elasticity and high shear strength.
Scientists at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have developed a chip that allows new radar cameras to be made a hundred times smaller than current ones.
With this NTU technology, radar cameras that usually weigh between 50 kg and 200 kg and are commonly used in large satellites can be made to become as small as palm-sized.
Despite being small, they can produce images that are of the same high quality if not better compared to conventional radar cameras. They are also 20 times cheaper to produce and consume at least 75 per cent less power.
Developed over the past three years at NTU, the promising technology has already secured S$2.5 million in research funding from Singapore government agencies.
The radar chip has attracted the attention of several multinational corporations, and is now being researched for use in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and satellite applications.
Assistant Professor Zheng Yuanjin from NTU’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering who led the research, said that the size and effectiveness of the chip will open up new applications not possible previously.
“We have significantly shrunk the conventional radar camera into a system that is extremely compact and affordable, yet provides better accuracy. This will enable high resolution imaging radar technology to be used in objects and applications never before possible, like small drones, driverless cars and small satellite systems,” said Asst Prof Zheng.
Advantages over current technology
Current radar camera systems are usually between half and two metres in length and weigh up to 200 kg. They cost more than US$1 million on the market and can consume over 1000 watts in electricity per hour, the energy equivalent of a household air-conditioning unit running for an hour.
Known as Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), these large radar cameras are often carried by large satellites and aircrafts that produce detailed images of the Earth’s surface. Objects longer than a metre, such as cars and boats, can be easily seen by the radar camera mounted on an aircraft flying at a height of 11 kilometres.
Unlike optical cameras which cannot work well at night due to insufficient light or in cloudy conditions, a radar camera uses microwaves (X-band or Ku-band) for its imaging, so it can operate well in all weather conditions and can even penetrate through foliage.
These detailed images from radar cameras can be used for environmental monitoring of disasters like forest fires, volcano eruptions and earthquakes as well as to monitor cities for traffic congestions and urban density.
But the huge size, prohibitive cost and energy consumption are deterrents for use in smaller unmanned aerial vehicles and autonomous vehicles. In comparison, NTU’s new radar chip (2mm x 3mm) when packaged into a module measures only 3cm x 4cm x 5cm, weighing less than 100 grams.
Production costs can go as low as US$10,000 per unit, while power consumption ranges from 1 to 200 watts depending on its application, similar to power-efficient LED TVs or a ceiling fan.
It can also capture objects as small as half a metre which is twice as detailed as the conventional radar camera used in large aircrafts or satellites.
Potential applications of the new radar chip
Asst Prof Zheng said that when mounted on UAVs, it can take high quality images on demand to monitor traffic conditions or even the coastlines for trespassers.
“Driverless cars will also be able to better scan the environment around them to avoid collisions and navigate more accurately in all weather conditions compared to current laser and optical technologies,” he added.
“Finally, with the space industry moving towards small satellite systems, such as the six satellites launched by NTU, smaller satellites can now also have the same advanced imaging capabilities previously seen only in the large satellites.”
Large satellites can weigh up to 1,000 kg, but microsatellites weigh only 100 to 200 kg.
Versatile chip also offers multiple applications in various electronic devices
Scientists at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have developed a small smart chip that can be paired with neural implants for efficient wireless transmission of brain signals.
Neural implants when embedded in the brain can alleviate the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease or give paraplegic people the ability to move their prosthetic limbs.
However, they need to be connected by wires to an external device outside the body. For a prosthetic patient, the neural implant is connected to a computer that decodes the brain signals so the artificial limb can move.
These external wires are not only cumbersome but the permanent openings which allow the wires into the brain increases the risk of infections.
The new chip by NTU scientists can allow the transmission of brain data wirelessly and with high accuracy.
Assistant Professor Arindam Basu from NTU’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering said the research team have tested the chip on data recorded from animal models, which showed that it could decode the brain’s signal to the hand and fingers with 95 per cent accuracy.
“What we have developed is a very versatile smart chip that can process data, analyse patterns and spot the difference,” explained Prof Basu.
“It is about a hundred times more efficient than current processing chips on the market. It will lead to more compact medical wearable devices, such as portable ECG monitoring devices and neural implants, since we no longer need large batteries to power them.”
Different from other wireless implants
To achieve high accuracy in decoding brain signals, implants require thousands of channels of raw data. To wirelessly transmit this large amount of data, more power is also needed which means either bigger batteries or more frequent recharging.
This is not feasible as there is limited space in the brain for implants while frequent recharging means the implants cannot be used for long-term recording of signals.
Current wireless implant prototypes thus suffer from a lack of accuracy as they lack the bandwidth to send out thousands of channels of raw data.
Instead of enlarging the power source to support the transmission of raw data, Asst Prof Basu tried to reduce the amount of data that needs to be transmitted.
Designed to be extremely power-efficient, NTU’s patented smart chip will analyse and decode the thousands of signals from the neural implants in the brain, before compressing the results and sending it wirelessly to a small external receiver.
This invention and its findings were published last month in the prestigious journal, IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Circuits & Systems, by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the world’s largest professional association for the advancement of technology.
Its underlying science was also featured in three international engineering conferences (two in Atlanta, USA and one in China) over the last three months.
Versatile smart chip with multiple uses
This new smart chip is designed to analyse data patterns and spot any abnormal or unusual patterns.
For example, in a remote video camera, the chip can be programmed to send a video back to the servers only when a specific type of car or something out of the ordinary is detected, such as an intruder.
This would be extremely beneficial for the Internet of Things (IOT), where every electrical and electronic device is connected to the Internet through a smart chip.
With a report by marketing research firm Gartner Inc predicting that 6.4 billion smart devices and appliances will be connected to the Internet by 2016, and will rise to 20.8 billion devices by 2020, reducing network traffic will be a priority for most companies.
Using NTU’s new chip, the devices can process and analyse the data on site, before sending back important details in a compressed package, instead of sending the whole data stream. This will reduce data usage by over a thousand times.
Asst Prof Basu is now in talks with Singapore Technologies Electronics Limited to adapt his smart chip that can significantly reduce power consumption and the amount of data transmitted by battery-operated remote sensors, such as video cameras.
The team is also looking to expand the applications of the chip into commercial products, such as to customise it for smart home sensor networks, in collaboration with a local electronics company.