Imagine this: you have just graduated from Junior College, a polytechnic or an International Baccalaureate program, and you are studying courses to further your education.
There are many factors to consider when choosing your degree: your interests, eligibility, strengths, and possible careers in the future.
Perhaps one of the considerations you may want to look into is the accomplishments of alumni, research staff, as well as academic members of the department.
The Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has a long list of interesting inventions and achievements that could prove useful in changing the world in the future. .
Harvesting water from the air for agriculture
NUS MSE students and faculty members are not afraid to get their hands dirty to come up with solutions creatively.
For example, the conversion of water from thin air.
Yes, apparently you can with a newly developed copper-based hydrogel created by Department Assistant Professor Tan Swee Ching.
Dubbed “SmartFarm,” the hydrogel has the ability to absorb moisture from the air and convert it to water.
The water is then used for an autonomous irrigation system without manual intervention.
The SmartFarm is powered by solar energy and the hydrogel is used to absorb moisture from the air at night when the relative humidity is higher.
The water is then released in the morning when exposed to the sun for irrigation.
One gram of hydrogel releases approximately 2.24 grams of water in one hour.
Not only could the hydrogel convert water from the air, but the water quality is judged to be drinkable according to the standard of the World Health Organization.
This invention is not only applicable on Earth.
The hydrogel was also tested in Hawaii’s Space Exploration Analogue and Simulation (HI-SEAS), a remote facility on Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano designed to simulate long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars.
Tan used the hydrogel to control humidity in small experimental greenhouses to support crops of edible micro-green sunflower plants and mountain cress for astronauts on missions.
The experiments showed that hydrogels offer a potential low-cost, low-weight, and low-energy solution for growing crops in self-contained farms in space.
Bringing HOPE to Glaucoma Patients
In addition to trying to solve real-world problems, NUS MSE also offers human-centered inventions aimed at easing the burden of those in need.
NUS MSE graduate student Yu Kelu invented an award-winning invention after seeing how his father had to endure long hours in the hospital just to have his eyes checked for glaucoma.
In collaboration with Benjamin Tee, associate professor in the department, Yu and his team succeeded in inventing a solution that allows patients to self-test in the comfort of their own home.
Their invention won the James Dyson Prize in 2021 – the first time a team from Singapore has won the prize since its debut 17 years ago.
the Home E-skin eye pressure sensor (HOPES) is designed for safe, accurate, painless and low-cost intraocular pressure (IOP) monitoring at home.
IOP refers to the fluid pressure in the eye.
Traditionally, measure IOP can be quite intimidating.
Patients’ eyes are anesthetized using numbing drops, and a small amount of non-toxic dye is then placed in the eye.
After which, an ophthalmologist will place the patient’s head in a slit lamp and a small tip will gently touch the surface of the eye and the pressure measurement will be taken.
With HOPES, this daunting procedure may soon be a thing of the past.
It uses a combination of electronic skin sensor (e-skin) and artificial intelligence (AI) technology to measure IOP.
The device consists of a glove with fingertip sensors that are linked to a mobile app.
Users only need to touch their eyelids with the glove.
The sensors will then capture dynamic pressure information from the user’s eye and process it through machine learning algorithms to calculate eye pressure.
Plant-derived biopolymer for surgical adhesions
Plant-based diets are all the rage now, but this invention has nothing to do with food or diet.
In medical terms, adhesions are fibrinous bands of internal scar tissue that cause tissues and internal organs that are usually separated to stick together.
As a result, they might suffer from small bowel obstruction, infertility, and pain in the pelvic region.
An academic from NUS MSE managed to find a way to overcome this problem by using a plant-based biopolymer.
Ng Wei-Beng, an associate professor in the department who is also an alumnus of the department, identified anti-fibrinolytic characteristics in a unique plant-derived biopolymer.
Ng is also CEO and Founder of Sporogenics Pte Ltd.
The naturally occurring biopolymer contains bioactive ingredients that can attenuate the cellular mechanism and fibrogenesis signaling pathway to treat post-surgical adhesions.
It can be harvested and made into a film (for open surgery) or a sprayed gel (for keyhole surgery).
Preclinical studies of the biopolymer in animals have shown promising results.
It dramatically reduces post-surgical adhesions by over 90%.
They plan to start their first human clinical trials in 2022.
Nobel Prize-winning physicist joins NUS MSE
NUS MSE students and researchers can also interact and learn from a Nobel Laureate, which many current students and faculty appreciate.
Konstantin Novoselov joined NUS MSE as Emeritus Professor of Materials Science and Engineering in April 2019.
He was also knighted by the Queen of England.
Novoselov is the first Nobel laureate to join NUS.
MSE is the only department in the College of Design and Engineering at NUS with a Nobel Laureate.
Novoselov was the youngest winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics since 1971 and the youngest since 1992.
Novoselov and Professor Andre Geim received the Nobel Prize in 2010 for their discovery of the two-dimensional material graphene.
Graphene is considered one of the most exciting materials for technological research.
It is tested in desalination filters to produce clean drinking water, in batteries, new generation LED bulbs and solar cells.
At NUS MSE, Novoselov leads a research group focused on advanced materials.
The group aims to discover interesting combinations of materials that can behave as smart sensors and microcomputing devices.
Lab visits and virtual roadshows
Of all the inventions and discoveries listed, NUS MSE has a good mix of science (physics, chemistry, biomedical) and engineering.
The top-ranked department in the global ranking offers a multidisciplinary program that incorporates new elements such as innovation, entrepreneurship, data science, artificial intelligence and intellectual property for materials innovation in its curriculum.
In this regard, NUS MSE is suitable for students interested in science and willing to apply this knowledge to real-world applications.
Graduates of the program can have multiple career opportunities as the program prepares them for careers in research, industry and even entrepreneurship.
If you want to know more about NUS MSE, you can leave your details on its admission microsite.
You will receive personalized updates on the program via your email.
You also have the opportunity to visit the laboratories of NUS MSE and learn more about the program and the research they pursue.
You will also be able to attend virtual roadshows on current topics concerning MSE.
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Top images courtesy of NUS MSE.
This sponsored article from the NUS Department of Materials Science and Engineering prompted the author to read scientific research articles.