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A*STAR’S Eco-friendly and toxic-free fire retardant debuts at BEX ASIA 2010

14.09.2010
A total of 9 Innovative Technologies on Display to Bolster Singapore’s Green Buildings and Construction Industry

1. Designed for green buildings, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)’s eco-friendly halogen and toxic gas-free flame retardant and fire-proof additive prevents the spread of fire by forming a blanket of solid material at low temperatures. Without emitting toxic gases or plasticisers, this new addictive also prevents choking and dripping hazards associated with conventional alternatives.

2. This fire retardant and eight other innovations will be on display at the Build Eco Xpo (BEX) Asia 2010, from 13 – 15 September 2010, at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre. These technologies will help raise the standards of ‘green’ buildings; guide industry towards more sustainable and energy efficient practices in building, design, construction and maintenance; as well as raise productivity in the construction industry.

3. Some of the A*STAR innovations showcased also include:

A) TECHNOLOGIES FOR GREEN BUILDINGS

Nanoimprint Technology
This technology allows ordinary surfaces to be transformed into multi-role materials for green buildings and construction. By engineering the ‘skin’ of materials using nanoimprinting, complex nanometre-sized structures can be produced – such as walls that are as colourful as a butterfly’s wing; new non-slip materials; adhesives that do not leave sticky residues, and even chemical-free waterproof and anti-bacterial surfaces for daily use – with fewer processing steps and minimising materials wastage.
Flexible and Energy-efficient Lighting Sheets
Plugging the gaps where conventional fluorescent lighting and LEDs cannot fill, this lighting alternative, produced in fashion similar to graphics printing, has been developed for ambient lighting in commercial buildings. Using new roll-to-roll technologies, compared to conventional lithography or vacuum based processes, this innovation allows flexible polymer substrates and electro-luminescent materials to be custom-patterned, coloured and integrated with graphics. Printable on plastics, textiles and paper, this robust and rugged technology is also ideal as safety signs in the construction environment.

B) TECHNOLOGIES FOR THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY

Glass Inspection System
A eco-friendly, hand-held glass inspection device has been invented for inspecting glass panels with Nickel Sulphide (NiS) mounted in high-rise buildings. Compared to traditional methods to prevent glass shattering - such as heat soaking and applying polymer film - which may consume more energy or use environmental-unfriendly materials, this technology is a greener alternative. Glass panels with NiS inclusions need to be detected and replaced on a regular basis because the NiS, trapped in the glass panels during manufacturing, will slowly change back to their original form with a 2.2 - 4% increase in volume , with such expansion causing glass shattering. Setsco and LeChamp have adopted this technology.
Health Monitoring of Fibre-reinforced Composites
This cost-effective innovation embeds polymer-based optic sensors into the composites in a single-step process during manufacturing, preventing failures in fibre-reinforced polymer composites and green-composites. This is critical as such composites are increasingly used in civil infrastructure and repair, and can suffer from damage (growth of hairline cracks between layers, material degradation etc), which can be hard to detect visually in difficult-to-reach areas and for complex components.
Integrated RFID Real-time Track & Trace System
It is vital in the construction industry that the right components are manufactured, shipped and used in the right place at the right time. Cutting across business processes and geographical locations, this internet-based system is not only cost-effective to set up, it can improve safety and productivity by providing a platform to track and trace construction assets. This system can be applied to the entire construction value chain, spanning manufacturers of building materials, distributors, contractors, operators to end-users.
Monitoring System for energy-efficient and intelligent manufacturing of construction materials

Using sensors combined with signal processing and data mining techniques, this system will allow manufacturing plants to know its equipment’s health and energy consumption profile. This gives manufacturing operations visibility. By providing awareness of equipment availability and energy consumption profiles, companies can also then optimise their energy usage. This monitoring system can be applied in construction and prefab manufacturing plants, and steel mills encompassing varied equipment etc.

Details of all nine technologies on showcase are appended in the Annex.

4. These technologies benefits the industry in a timely fashion as Singapore moves towards achieving its target of greening at least 80% of its buildings by 2030. The government has also introduced a S$250m (US$187m) Construction Productivity & Capability Fund (CPCF) for technology adoption, manpower development and skills upgrading to increase productivity in the industry .

5. “A*STAR, through the varied environmental-friendly technologies developed by its science and engineering research institutes, can play a pivotal role in helping Singapore achieve its green building vision and raise the productivity of the construction industry,” said Prof Low Teck Seng, Executive Director of A*STAR Science and Engineering Research Council.

6. He added: “A*STAR posses a broad spectrum of research expertise and resources which the industry can leverage on to produce innovative and practical solutions, allowing companies in the building and construction industry to move up the manufacturing value chain. It is through our world-class research that we benefit the industry and the economy.”

Journalists/photographers are cordially invited to visit the A*STAR booth at BEX Asia 2010 (Booth L20, Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Marina Bay Sands).

###

Annex: A*STAR Technologies for Green Buildings and Construction Industry at BEX Asia 2010

AGENCY FOR SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND RESEARCH (A*STAR)

For media queries, please contact:

Mr. Clement Ng
Corporate Communications, A*STAR
DID: 6826 6480 / Mobile: 9815 4490
Email: clement_ng@a-star.edu.sg
Ms. Lee Swee Heng
Corporate Communications
A*STAR Science and Engineering Institutes
DID: 6793 8368/ Mobile: 9620 3902
Email: leesh@scei.a-star.edu.sg
About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
A*STAR is the lead agency for fostering world-class scientific research and talent for a vibrant knowledge-based and innovative-driven Singapore. A*STAR oversees 14 biomedical sciences, and physical sciences and engineering research institutes, and seven consortia & centres, which are located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis, as well as their immediate vicinity.

A*STAR supports Singapore's key economic clusters by providing intellectual, human and industrial capital to its partners in industry. It also supports extramural research in the universities, hospitals, research centres, and with other local and international partners.

For more information on A*STAR, please visit www.a-star.edu.sg

ANNEX

A*STAR Technologies for Green Buildings and Construction Industry at BEX Asia 2010

Green Buildings:

1. Environmentally-friendly fire retardant and fire-proof additive

Many fire retardants, initially based on halogenated organic compounds classified as Persistent Organic Pollutants, are banned now in developed countries because of their environmental effects and other toxicity issues. These also require toxic heavy metal oxides as catalysts to function as fire retardants. Although phosphates and nitrogen containing compounds were developed to replace these halogenated organic compounds, these compounds also generate toxic gases upon exposure to flames and act as plasticisers enhancing the dripping hazard posed by plastics.

There is a demand for fire retardant which does not emit toxic gases and also do not act as a plasticiser.

One such example is the A*STAR-developed eco-friendly fire retardant and fire-proof additive which prevents the spread of fire by the intense formation of char at low temperatures, does not emit any toxic gases nor plasticise.

Since the char formation occurs around the temperature at which most of the organic compounds begin to generate volatile components, it effectively protects the flammable surfaces from burning. The char formation is through chemical reactions that are induced by the heat generated upon fire and does not require any external agents or catalysts. The fire retardant additive is used in coating formulations, foams, plastic, and fibres coating formulations. As a fire-proof additive, it is used in structural steel, shipping pallets, automotive applications like fire shield in various parts of the vehicle, aircraft, boats.

For more information, please contact:
Dr A Parthiban
Senior Research Fellow
Email: aparthiban@ices.a-star.edu.sg
HP: 98407937
2. Nanoimprinting technology (NIT)
NIT produces nanometre-sized structures of greater complexity using fewer processing steps, while minimising wastage of materials. It has since evolved from being a potential next-generation lithography technology for the semiconductor industry to a platform process technology that is applicable to a wide range of industries. NIT offers an unconventional alternative to the fabrication of ultra fine features.

The concept of nanoimprinting resembles conventional hot embossing of the polymers – much like making a waffle! The strength of NIT lies in that once the mould has been made it can be used repeatedly to make simple, uniform patterns. The A*STAR team was one of the first to pioneer new methods to make complex, 3-D, nanostructures using a new method that was developed in Singapore - a technique called combinatorial-mould imprinting. The A*STAR team also has much experience in fabricating complicated 2D and 3D micro- and nanostructures on a variety of substrates for numerous applications.

Recently, A*STAR together with the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), International Enterprise(IE) Singapore and SPRING Singapore launched an Industrial Consortium On Nanoimprint (ICON). The goal is to open up NIT’s many benefits to industries to adopt this versatile technique into some of their existing processes. Partners in the ICON currently include A*STAR’s Institute of High Performance Computing, EDB, IE Singapore, SPRING, and Singapore’s DSO National Laboratories and Solves Innovative Technology Pte Ltd, Nypro, Inc. (US), Innox Co Ltd (Japan), NTT-Advanced Technology Corporation (Japan) and Youngchang Chemical Co., Ltd. (South Korea).

For more information, please contact:
Dr Low Hong Yee / Dr Lim Chee Tiong
Senior Scientist / Research Engineer
Email: hy-low@imre.a-star.edu.sg / limct@imre.a-star.edu.sg
3. Flexible and Energy Efficient Lighting
Printing of functional materials on numerous substrates such as paper, plastic and textile substrates create functional films with unique properties and physical form factor using roll-to-roll processing technologies. Roll-to-roll processing represents the paradigm shift in manufacturing of functional films in emerging large area applications. Key advantages of roll-to-roll processing technologies over conventional lithography or vacuum based processes in functional film manufacturing include additive patterning of functional materials, low temperature process compatibility with flexible polymer substrates and integration with graphics printing techniques.

Multi-functional materials were printed on flexible and transparent plastic films using roll-to-roll processing. Printing of light emitting materials on plastic substrates enables ultra-thin, flexible and bendable films with surface area lighting. There is broad industry applications including ambient lighting, advertising, automotive, building, etc.

For more information, please contact:
Dr Albert Lu
Senior Research Scientist
Email: cwlu@SIMTech.a-star.edu.sg
HP: 97639076
4. Solar-driven self-cleaning coating
Dirt collection on building exteriors have always been a maintenance problem for facility managers and owners as it affects aesthetics. Building surfaces are generally cleaned using detergents, accompanied with scrubbing or high-pressure water jets. These naturally lead to high maintenance costs.

Under sunlight, the solar-driven self-cleaning coating has two functions, strong oxidation power and super-hydrophilicity. The strong oxidation power is able to oxidise away dirt and the super-hydrophilicity allows rain water to wash away dirt attached to the coated surface.

Self-cleaning coating can be applied on a wide variety of surfaces commonly found on buildings, such as painted building surfaces, walls, glass panels and windows. Buildings with self-cleaning abilities significantly reduce the need to wash, clean and maintain, thus saving maintenance costs, labour and time. The resultant reduction in the usage of cleaning agents, soaps or detergents will also save the environment from unnecessary water pollutants.

For more information, please contact:
Dr Cai Ru Xiong Chris
Associate Research Scientist
Email: chriscai@SIMTech.a-star.edu.sg
HP: 96552837
Construction Industry:
5. Glass Inspection System
There is a growing need for inspection to detect the presence of detrimental inclusions such as Nickel Sulphide (NiS) in toughened glass panels installed in high rise buildings. These inclusions can cause the shattering of toughened glass panels resulting in potential property damage or injury. To prevent these, countermeasures are applied in glass manufacturing or building construction:
• Heat soaking: heat up the glass panels to 290℃ and maintain for several hours; most of the glass panels with NiS will break
• Protection film: apply a polymer film on the surface of glass panel to prevent the drop of glass pieces when the glass panel shatters

These methods may consume more energy, or use materials which are unfriendly to environment. An alternative technology has been developed.

A hand-held glass inspection device has been invented for inspecting glass panels mounted in high-rise building for NiS inclusion. The main feature of the inspection method is the illumination technique. Light is introduced into a glass panel and propagates along the glass by total internal reflection. An inclusion in the glass will cause the light to scatter. As such, inclusions and defects can be easily detected.

For more information, please contact:
Dr Li Xiang, Leon
Associate Research Scientist
Email: lixiang@SIMTech.a-star.edu.sg
HP: 94309763
6. Health monitoring for fibre-reinforced and green composites
Suitable sensing devices in the composite structure are embedded at the manufacturing stage to reduce overall processing costs. Depending on the type of sensor applied, it may allow for process monitoring (during polymer cure) and for the detection of defects and/or material weakening subsequently when the structure enters into service. Embedded sensors can help to prevent failures in composite structures via the timely detection of defects (cracks), abnormal material behaviour (large strains) and the monitoring of defect growth.

Thermal signatures emitting from a composite component housing a heated conductive network can allow the detection of sub-surface defects. Change in reflective index of embedded polymer optic-fibres can also be used to monitor the cure processes of fibre-reinforced composites. The sensors may be introduced into the composites via single-step, low pressure, low temperature processing techniques, with little additional processing costs. The application of polymer fibre optic sensors for cure monitoring in natural fibre composites is also a new area under development.

The other research partners are Delft University of Technology, Nanyang Technological University and the National University of Singapore.

For more information, please contact:
Dr Teo Wern Sze (natural fibre composites)
Dr Martin Landert (in-situ structural health monitoring)
Dr Lim Sze Hui (biopolymer nano-composites)
Assistant Research Scientists
Email: wsteo@SIMTech.a-star.edu.sg
martinl@SIMTech.a-star.edu.sg
shlim@SIMTech.a-star.edu.sg
HP: 98581393/ 82682423/ 93683835
7. Integrated RFID Real-time Track and Trace
The construction assets and components are properly tagged and identified uniquely.

Events about their movement and usage are captured and managed throughout their lifecycle and business processes. Even in transit, their events are associated with the carriers so that they can be tracked and traced in real-time, anytime, anywhere.

Applications for the construction industry are:
• Real-time RFID management for construction asset and components
• Improving visibility and safety with seamless asset/component track & trace
• Automatic information collection and synchronised processes
Operations and inventory tracking
The benefits and impact of RFID tracking and tracing are:
• Enhance labour efficiency/savings
• Improve visibility and fulfillments
• Increase labour productivity
• Track and manage parts inventory
• Enable lot/batch track and trace
• Ensure worker safety
• Reduce scrap, waste and obsolescence
• Improve planning and forecasting
• Improve traceability and safety of products for counterfeiting and maintaining copyrights

• Enhance asset management and handling of returnable assets

For more information, please contact:
He Wei
Senior Research Engineer
Email: whe@SIMTech.a-star.edu.sg
HP: 97704566
8. Monitoring of energy-efficient and intelligent manufacturing of construction materials

Machine availability to produce parts reliably and without consuming excessive amount of energy is a challenge to manufacturers of pre-fabricated structures and steel components. Faulty machines and unplanned machine downtime creates havoc to the execution of job orders in manufacturing plants. Increasing energy prices forced manufacturers to reduce energy consumption without sacrificing on quality of parts produced. There is a need to develop technologies that can enable high visibility of equipment availability and increase manufacturing productivity.

The assimilation of sensing and data processing technologies combined will give plant owners and manufacturers a visibility of manufacturing operations. This will provide a full awareness on the equipment availability and energy consumption based on actual production throughout. Manufacturing operations can become more lean and energy efficient given reliable data collection and information extraction.

The technology can be used in most equipment for the construction and prefab manufacturing plants and steel mills. This will enable high manufacturing uptime and guaranteed production. Energy wastage can be significantly reduced without sacrificing on the quality of production and throughput. Product carbon footprint can be calculated in a realistic manner with increased accuracy.

Partners of the collaboration are Prof Jay Lee (University of Ohio Cincinnati) and Prof Frank Lewis (University of Texas Arlington)

For more information, please contact:
Dr Ian Chan
Associated Research Scientist
Email: hlchan@simtech.a-star.edu.sg
HP: 67938341/91176304
9. Greening Your Company: A Possibility
The Industrial Ecology concept opens up possible ideas for better usages of materials and energy to create awareness and possibility for a sustainable construction sector. Adopting the correct or appropriate methodology reduce the environmental impact and even increases productivity and profitability for the company. The display opens up minds to see possibilities in improving the usual approach to the present system with more opportunities in greening their company in a more sustainable way.
For more information, please contact:
Dr Patrick Shi
Email: cwshi@SIMTech.a-star.edu.sg
HP: 83227674

| Research asia research news
Further information:
http://www.a-star.edu.sg/
http://www.researchsea.com

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