Hwa Chong Institution (High School)
Projects Competition 2015
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Upper Secondary
Engineering Science
12- 08
Project Title
Smart Adsorption Chiller
Refrigerator, air conditioners and other chillers play an important part in our everyday lives. They also play important roles in various industries such as transportation and printing. The conventional mechanical chiller that utilises electricity has the advantages of efficiency and convenience, but have many limitations as well. They require electricity to work, which may not be conveniently available. These chillers also consumes a significant portion of generated electricity in countries such as USA and Singapore. Adsorption chillers overcome these drawbacks by providing a chilling solution that utilises a low grade waste heat source. It can be used in any industry which produces waste heat, as well as require cooling, such as the maritime transportation and the printing industry. As its source of energy is waste heat, there is no extra energy consumption, making the system much more eco-friendly than conventional chillers. It's drawback include lower efficiency, as well as large size if sufficient cooling capacity is to be provided. Lower efficiency is less of an issue, as the chiller's source of energy is waste heat. The large size means that the chiller will only be practical for industrial application, but this may change in the near future as more absorbent materials are being engineered to provide a higher cooling capacity for the same size. In addition, adsorption chillers can also be used for desalination. However, a chiller optimised for desalination will not be effective at cooling, and vice versa. The SMART adsorption chiller overcomes this problem by merging a chilling-optimised and a desalination-optimised chiller into one chiller. This results in a adsorption chiller that serves effectively as both a desalination plant and a chiller, with increased efficiency. Such a system has great potential to be utilised, for example, on ships, where there is a source of waste heat, as well as demand for both chilling and desalination.
Link to Video page
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Professor Anutosh (NTU)
Ms Boey Soek Bing (Hwa Chong Institution)
Team Leader/Members

(Name & Class)
Team Leader :

This project has been an enriching experience. At the start of year, I decided to try something new. Having achieved High Distinction in 2 different categories, I decided to try STEM. At the start it wasn’t an easy call as my teammates are not exactly engineer types given that I am in an Art class. We wanted to do Chinese Category at first which is an easy way out for us however we decided to try STEM since this is the last year that we can have a chance to try something new. The idea of collaborating with professors and universities thrilled us and we managed to be attached NTU’s project named “Smart adsorption chiller”. The project was met with lots of challenges in the process. Firstly, the project was really challenging for us at first since it is in the field of thermodynamics which is really new to us. We barely have basic knowledge about thermodynamics. Terms like COP, adsorption desorption cycles, SCP were really foreign to us. We did some research online with limited success as the explanation of such terms usually comes with even more complex terms. We visited NTU a few times and met with Professor Anutosh and Mr Ali who is in charge of building the adsorption chiller. We have learnt a lot from them, especially Mr Ali, since Prof. Anutosh is seldom around. We learnt about the aforementioned terms and concepts way beyond our high school syllabus and it was really enriching since I like physics a lot. It’s amazing how this machine can “move” the heat energy from a colder place to a hotter place through “pumping”. Secondly, the collaboration with NTU was not very effective. Their project has an unlimited time span while we have limited time, the discrepancy in schedule has caused quite a bit of problem. We kept on getting empty promises regarding the completion date of the machine. From 22th May to now, they kept on telling us that it’s going to be done within the next few weeks. However, it is never up even the week before our Semi-finals presentation. This is really frustrating due to the special nature of this project that we cannot do it at our school labs due to really low pressure and high temperature involved. It is based on simple mechanics put together in a big machine and experiments can only be done using the machine. Although I understand that this is their project and we are just joining in to learn and help, I was really frustrated that there is nothing much we can do besides running simulated tests using existing models. This has greatly limited our ability to solve the problems out of the theoretical concepts. Lastly, time management is a very prevalent problem in Hwa Chong as besides projects, we have a lot of commitments. I tried to find a common time for all but it was not really effective at first. I changed up the strategy a little by breaking up the project into smaller sections and assign each member with some sections to be completed by a certain deadline. The team’s morale is really dampened by the fact that we cannot do any real testing on the machine and I have to resort to the use of threat to get things done. There is an old saying, no pain no gain. This project is definitely not an easy one that one can breeze through it. However I have learnt a lot of things in the process and there are some that I am really thankful for. Firstly, I want to thank the schools for giving us the opportunity to be attached to a university, this is a rare chance that few schools are able to give the students. Secondly, I am thankful for our mentor for guiding us and always reminding us what needs to be done; Prof. Anutosh and Mr Ali for aiding us relentlessly throughout the process. Lastly, I am thankful for my teammates and my family for supporting me. I am sorry that I have failed as a leader, not bringing the team into the finals this time. I appreciate the last experience of project work in High school which is not going to be the same in JC.

Group Members :

This year's project's day competition was a unique experience. The decision to undertake a STEM project was a concoction of an adventurous spirit and a deviation from the routine Chinese category. The project, "Smart adsorption chiller" is unique in its contents. The engineering, mathematics and chemistry knowledge involved is new and enriching. Learning about mathematical models and process of adsorption will come in useful in the further. Learning to construct graphs with excel and designing diagrams for a system honed my IT skills too. On the other hand, this unique experience is a humbling one. The angst of failure and its repercussions are more salient than ever in my Hwa Chong journey. It really dampened the arrogance I accumulated for taking past years' successes for granted. Previously, I have been the IT guy in the team. My role entails presentation design, website design, photography and the likes. Coupled with a few strong teammates in content creation, we have clinched quite a few high distinctions. This time, however, to solely limit my role in design is not sufficient. While role assignments are useful, one cannot rightfully claim "Job's done" and leave the rest to the team. It is always good to be more helpful. One of the biggest problems we faced is with the creating content for the project. It can be broken down to 3 major reasons: the nature of the content, constraints of the collaboration and management of the team. STEM projects are no child's play. Partnering with universities, in our case NTU, set the difficulty of concepts and principles beyond our level. Before the project, I have merely some basic ideas about heat capacity. However, throughout the projects, the team has to look up research papers, watch videos, and search online resources to decipher the meanings of "adsorption", "Organic metal framework", jargons and acronyms like "COP", "SCP" with strange looking symbols in complicated mathematical equations. It can be nerve wrecking to comprehend these terms and the concepts based on them. Fortunately, we have the friendly professor and his assistant to help us tackle these concepts. Through their teachings and our own research, these tough terms have been successfully understood and applied in our presentations. This can definitely be applied to further occasions of knowledge inquiry to learn from mentors and independent research from the internet. While we finally understood the concepts, another issue arises. Project's day competition is not an examination on knowledge of thermodynamics or adsorption process. The stem category requires more substance with testing and analysis. We were eager to get our hands dirty with the adsorption chambers and the numerous sensors attached to it. However, reality is far from the ideals. The construction of the chiller is a waiting game. While we had high hopes for an established university like NTU to make swift progress in their work, there were many unforeseen problems with the engineering involved and the machine cannot be realized. Our group responded by attempting to circumvent the problem by running simulated tests with the mathematical models provided. We constructed a few graphs from the results and made some analysis. It is easy to say that we have tried our best due to the limiting factors in engineering, but more could always be done. Rather than submitting to such constraints, perhaps we could have tried to create a model to illustrate the adsorption process and compare the heat capacity of silicon versus other materials. The lesson learnt is that when facing obstacles, do not limit oneself to its constraints, but rather to explore other paths to success which would have been overlooked in the face of adversities. I am partly to blame, due to my more laid back attitude and by limiting my role to designing. It would have been more beneficial to step up and suggests ways to overcome such problems. The last piece of the problem is with the team. As part of the team, I have to concede that there's room for improvements. Some member of the team is laced with commitments that reigned over the project. It is understandable and forgivable, but more should have been done to motivate the team to contribute more. We are also not proficient in the fields of STEM, and this choice is a risky one. Category 7, Chinese would be an easy high distinction for the group, with less effort. On first glance it seems counter-intuitive to go for a STEM project. However, mistakes are still valuable to us. It offers an experience that challenge assumptions. Aside, I do not believe that one can only be successful in one field. Certain qualities are universal in achieving the goals. Perseverance, optimism, resourcefulness and diligence are all examples of the qualities to do well in any projects, be it STEM or Chinese. It reveals that I have much to learn and improve throughout my journey in Hwa Chong and the lifelong walk of learning. Finally, I would like to show my appreciation for my team, my mentors and partners in NTU. Without them, I would not have learnt so much from this experience. I aspiring to strive harder for future projects and apply my experience to make everyone a success.
The year with 3 of my classmates doing this project is a fulfilling one, and I’m glad to be part of this project that broadened my perspectives about Engineering and Problem Solving in real-world scenarios. Through this project, I’ve dwelled deeper into the physics of adsorption, thermodynamics and how chillers function. These are concepts that are taught in class but I never had an opportunity to apply them in a practical context until I came across this project. Through application, I’ve learnt about how various concepts (such as conduction, pressure and adsorption) function in an observable manner, and that left a deep impression in me. Smart Adsorption Chiller is not only about the physics and maths involved in the project, it is also about team members working hand in hand to conquer challenges faced. More than simple teamwork, it is about understanding each other’s skillsets and needs, and trying to work something out with the four of us. Communication and coordination is essential in this project because we are ultimately four different people and it’s up to us to formulate work plans that function well and keeps us on track. One of the problems I encountered was my commitment for the project. I’ve been participating in various competitions and my time for the project was very limited. I had to leave school early on Semi-Finals to go for my Piano Exam, before rushing for the Finals for my competition. As a result, I wasn’t able to do as much as my teammates and my contribution was limited by my lack of time. My teammates helped me by distributing work in a way that will not require me to spend a lot of time during my peak period, such as the web-report etc. They are taking up most of the time-consuming physics and models and I will contribute through spreading my workload over a long period of time in order to come to compromise with my lack of time. I do feel very guilty that I cannot do as much as they can sometimes but I’ve came to realise that my teammates are trustworthy and reliable, and I should do as much as possible to build on what they have done. This method of distributing work was successful because it played on each of our advantageous areas and maximised our efficiency as a team. This method can be applied across various projects and events that require teamwork because one plus one is greater than two, and everyone can cover for what each other cannot do. However, what did not work out really well was us trying to solve the problem that we were trailing along the edge of deadlines all the time. All of us knew that time was running out, but we did not have a system that motivated each other effectively, so it all came down to self-awareness, which created tensions between the four of us because we were not all at the same speed. Our group leader was trying to remind us about the fact that we have to get work done early, but without an effective system to motivate us, simple reminders are inefficient. If we were to deal with similar problems in the future, I would suggest that we could have formulated a reward-and-punishment system to motivate each and every one of us. By making the rewards of completing work on time or before time tangible, we can ensure that together as a group we can function well.
My project this year, Smart Adsorption Chiller, was an excellent learning experience in terms of both knowledge and inter-personal skills. Through the project, I have learnt more about chillers and their working principle. Through my interactions with the professors from NTU, our partner for this project, I also learnt a lot about what research means and aims to achieve. In terms of inter-personal skills, apart from the usual interaction with teammates while attempting to coordinate a schedule, the presence of a partner institution also gave me many new experiences. I learnt more about working as an attachment to a research project, through communicating and negotiating with our research partners. In the beginning, our project faced a major challenge: none of us had any prior knowledge on the subject of chillers, and did not know adsorption chillers existed. Without such knowledge, it would be impossible to take on this project. We could not identify the problems being addressed in the project or propose a solution design without background knowledge in the field. Facing such a problem, we discussed it and decided on a few strategies to overcome it. We firstly conducted research on our own, with some members dedicated to researching certain topics related to chillers, such as working principle, advantages and disadvantages, as well as existing problems and current solutions. I felt that we should possess these content knowledge before proceeding to discuss further with our research partners. In almost any situation, it is preferable that research on a topic that will be discussed is done before any discussion takes place. In our case, although we were able to gain a basic understanding of the working principles of chillers as well as the advantages and disadvantages of different types of chillers, we found it difficult to understand adsorption chillers very well. In addition to the relatively lowers numbers of research on adsorption chillers, we were also not research effectively. Most research tends to be focused on the problems and potential of adsorption chillers instead of its working principles. I feel that to improve this strategy, better research techniques as well as utilisation of resources should be used. A major improvement would be to use general knowledge sources such as Wikipedia to gather an overview before proceeding into professional research. By focusing too much on the latter, it will be difficult to understand the topic initially. However, these research still contributed to our content knowledge, and we decided to utilise another strategy to overcome this problem. We also used the strategy of consulting our research partner. When we visited them for the first time, we asked for help regarding the matter and the professor gave us a detailed introduction to the working principles as well as advantages and disadvantages of the adsorption chiller. We also learnt about the chillers in detail during our later visits. I felt that good communication between us and our research partners were important; if we lacked communication, our research could have gone off track, which will mean a lot of wasted efforts. Through these consultations, we were able to learn much more relevant information than through our own research. This was because our partner was knowledgeable in the field, and could demonstrate the principles using an actual adsorption chiller at the laboratory