1st Place: Young Sustainability Champions
Updated: Mar 26
Congratulations to our first place winners the Young Sustainability Champions!
Team Members: Tan Jia Hao, Wong Sam Tou, Goh Zhi Yu, Ong Jing Jie
As the amount of fossil fuels left on Earth continues to dwindle, the usage of renewable energy becomes increasingly important. Coupled with Singapore’s current goal of working towards a more sustainable and resilient city in accordance with the 17 SDGs, we decided to tackle the problem statement on how might we increase the use of renewable energy of either residential communities or industrial facilities.
Singapore being a small island nation, lacks sufficient natural resources and areas, whether land or sea, to efficiently harness renewable energy sources. However, what we do have is a built up city with innumerable high rise buildings. While coming up with our prototype, we were focused on creating a product capable of making use of Singapore’s urban landscape to our advantage, exploiting it to produce renewable energy at low costs. We also wanted to harness an alternative energy source other than solar energy, as it is already well explored in Singapore, while other sources are often deemed impossible due to Singapore’s limited resources.
After much consideration, we chanced upon our solution: the Hydrobine! By making use of the sewage pipes in HDB flats that transport sewage from tall buildings to the sewage system underground, we can harness the gravitational potential energy of the sewage by allowing it to turn a turbine, generating electricity using a motor. This solution can be easily implemented into our existing infrastructure and is very scalable as well. Not only that, it does not affect the natural and built-up surroundings as it only involves the installation of a turbine. Most importantly, it can generate a sizable portion of renewable energy that does not depend on the external environment! So regardless of whether it is day or night, the turbine will continue to generate electricity as long as someone is using water in the HDB flat. The electricity generated can then be used to power communal facilities such as corridor lights and elevators, reducing the living cost and maintenance cost incurred on residents, real estate developers and the government. This aligns with our refined problem statement: “How might we reduce the cost of renewable energy by 30%?” This refined problem statement was chosen as the cost of using renewable energy is one of the key obstacles that is brought about as can be seen from our Define phase of the design thinking process.
Our first prototype was built from simple materials such as a plastic bottle and some tape. In our first round of prototyping, the turbine did not turn very smoothly, possibly due to the design of the blade shape and the position of the water flow relative to the turbine. In our second round of prototyping, we successfully addressed those issues by changing the design of the turbine blades and repositioning the turbine in the pipe, and our turbine spun much better. If we were given more time and resources, we would definitely work with an external manufacturer in hydro turbines to help us create a real-life prototype and test out different corrosion-resistant metals such as stainless steel or carbon fiber, materials often used to make turbines. Furthermore, we could then test our prototypes with real world HDB sewage pipes to observe the effectiveness of our prototype. Other than that, we would also like to have accurate scientific instruments to design and test more prototypes so as to optimise our turbine. We hope that our product, after more rounds of improvement, can be implemented one day, increasing renewable energy production at affordable prices, creating a more sustainable and resilient Singapore.
This is the end of the sneak peak! Check out the link and delve into their innovative design, how they got there, how it works and evaluation!