Physical Sciences & Engineering Research Focus
The mission of SERC is to do innovative research and develop human capital that creates knowledge and technology of economic impact. In addition to excellent science, desired outcomes are people and the know-how to integrate technology from many disciplines, enable technology transfer to industry, support investment by international corporations and produce spin-off companies. Whether applied to a component such as the femto slider in a magnetic data storage device or in an end product such as the silicon chip that extracts nucleic acid from human blood sample, or in a supply chain system that manages the location of aircraft rotables, innovation in SERC is supported by an assembly of capabilities that include Computational and Device Technologies, deep knowledge of Materials and Chemistry, systems thinking that utilises Mechatronics & Automation and Manufacturing Technology supported by Information, Communications, Media as well as Metrology. Furthermore, while Chemistry has always been a critical enabler for Biomedical Science, SERC has begun to extend physics and engineering principles and methodology to the biomedical sciences, thus creating new capabilities in Bio-Technology.
In addition, to encourage the participation of SERC research institutes, the universities as well as potential industry partners, the following programmes and new initiatives have also been set up to cater to this effort.
Infocomm, Media & Computing
The Infocomm, Media & Computing Cluster works closely with the Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R) and the Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC) to provide high performance computational resources and spearhead innovations in the information technologies, communication, media and computing space.
The convergence of media, telecommunications and computing has provided new opportunities and transformed business processes. SERC aims to capitalise on the growth through the application of computational science and building infocomm technology enablers for today's important engineering issues with an eye to developing the infrastructure for tomorrow's applied problems.
These include the research areas of cloud computing, data analytics, computational science and engineering, interactive digital media, smart grid security, social robotics and intelligent systems. The various programmes and initiatives in this space, which range from “Data Value chain as a Service (DVCaaS)" to “Computational Cognition for Social System (CCSS)”, contribute to the development of systems which are intelligent, interactive and pervasive.
The DVCaaS programme was established to create and apply new capabilities in cloud-based data management, analytics and protection technologies space which are relevant to enterprises, government and research communities.
The CCSS programme explores developing capabilities for believable, intuitive and socially appropriate interactions in intelligent systems or agents, to better understand and model aspects of interpersonal, social interactions and judgements that constitute personality and social cognition.
Chemicals, Materials and Energy
The Chemicals, Materials and Energy (CME) cluster works to promote the growth of Singapore’s economy through the development of R&D capabilities in the chemicals and materials space, and promoting innovations in the broad areas of energy and sustainability.
Chemicals and Materials
SERC’s strong capabilities in basic and applied science of chemicals and materials serve as a broad enabling toolkit applicable to numerous physical innovations. From the synthesis of new materials and molecules, to the understanding of structure-property correlations and fundamental mechanisms, SERC has research capabilities to manipulate material and chemical properties from molecular levels to kilogram scales. Coupled with capabilities in process engineering and characterisation technologies, SERC is able to engage in system-level solutions to modern problems which are complex and multidisciplinary in nature. Examples of such efforts in recent years include the Value-added Chemicals from Lignocellulose, Metamaterials and Innovations in Processing of Specialities and Pharmaceuticals programmes at SERC.
Energy research at A*STAR consist a diverse portfolio spanning applications in various industries, leveraging on research capabilities developed in a broad range of disciplines to achieve impact. Energy research at SERC can be classified under 3 broad themes:
With 80% of Singapore’s electricity generated from LNG-based power plants and 15% coming from fuel oil, energy security and feedstock diversification is of concern to our national security. Together with the need for R&D to remain competitive in the rapidly burgeoning alternative energy industry sector, SERC has developed significant capabilities in bioenergy, solar photovoltaics, fuel cells and carbon mitigation solutions. Examples of efforts in recent years include the Bioenergy and Carbon Capture and Utilisation programmes at SERC.
An intelligent power grid will ensure more efficient usage and deployment of power throughout the transmission system. A*STAR’s Intelligent Energy Distribution Systems programme focuses on the research of sensor and communication technologies, power control and distribution devices, software for advanced energy management and seamless integration of these technologies at a systems level that will bring secure, clean and useful energy to meet the demand of end users in many parts of the world.
The Experimental Power Grid Centre established in 2008 looks at developing new technologies for intelligent and decentralised power distribution, interconnection and utilisation. Through research at the centre, SERC will be positioned to play a leading role in the development of smart grid related technologies and bridge the technological gap between electricity generation and utilisation.
One of the main themes for R&D on energy utilisation at SERC is energy efficiency. Reducing energy consumption directly impacts on monetary and environmental costs, translating into sustainable business models in a carbon-sensitive world. Innovations in energy utilization at SERC are apparent in a broad range of applications, ranging from electronics to chemicals. Examples of such efforts include the Green Building and Sustainable Manufacturing research initiatives at SERC.
The Engineering Cluster promotes R&D and innovation in two major areas in the Engineering sector, namely Precision and Transport Engineering. These cover a wide spectrum of capabilities within the local research community involving high value manufacturing, material processing, computational modelling and metrology.
Precision engineering is the backbone of manufacturing for Singapore and forms an integral part of a wide range of industries. Three major trends that shape this arena have been identified. Firstly, innovations are needed to meet the increasingly complex profiles of products that are designed for micro scale (e.g. microfluidic devices), and those intended for large sizes (e.g. aerospace parts). Secondly, advanced materials, e.g. composites and superalloys present new challenges to processes such as machining, surface coating and non-destructive testing (NDT). Lastly, there is a need to boost productivity through operational excellence, in areas such as lean manufacturing and high mix low volume production.
In order to support the technological needs of the future, a reliable measurement standard consistent with international definitions is important. A*STAR has a multidisciplinary team of scientists and engineers to ensure Singapore’s measurement system is traceable to the SI units, e.g. optical and electromagnetic metrology.
SERC offers capabilities targeted to fill technological gaps of the transport sector. For the marine and offshore industry, SERC focuses on R&D in deepwater applications where harsher conditions of higher temperature and pressure demand advanced technological breakthroughs. In the aerospace arena, critical areas such as maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) activities and avionics are tackled through key research areas of computational modelling, non-destructive testing, info-communications, etc.
Electronics is a strategic capability for Singapore. The semiconductor and data storage industries account for nearly 70% of the total manufacturing output projected to be S$63.9 B for 2009. The Institute of Microelectronics (IME) and the Data Storage Institute (DSI) are the largest public R&D institutes that support existing industry needs and also nurture potential and emerging technologies for adoption.
Singapore’s semiconductor industry contributed about 11.2% of the global market output in 2009. Much of this output relies on Moore’s law with continuing miniaturization of the devices. In addition to continuing Moore’s law, IME is spearheading developing technologies to integrate more functionalities (e.g., optoelectronics, MEMS) on devices based on older technology nodes in order to achieve higher values per device. These “More than Moore” technologies include 3D Through Silicon Via, advanced MEMS and wafer level packaging. Other major focus areas include new wafer processes for emerging devices like Si nanowire transistors, which have the potential to replace and complement existing planar MOSFET devices as scaling continues. Starting from 2011, Singapore’s semiconductor R&D will get a major boost with the establishment of a new 12-inch silicon wafer research facility at IME.
Although hard disk drives are still the dominant storage devices today due to high capacity and cost-effectiveness, solid state drives are making inroads to businesses and other niche applications where performance is the top priority. The demand in terms of performance and capacities for data storage will continue to escalate at a phenomenal rate and penetrate deeper into mobile and high performance computing applications. To address this demand, DSI is taking a multi-pronged approach. In addition to exploring promising new technologies (from track recording, media, signal processing, etc) to achieve multi-terabit per square inch density in conventional hard disk drives, DSI is also expanding aggressively into next-generation non-volatile memory devices based on phase change and spin-transfer torque magnetic technologies with promising scalabilities, endurance and speed. Software, network and firmware efforts will also be intensified as they will become more prominent in driving performance in thisstorage environment in which solid-state, hard disk drives and tapes will co-exist and complement one another.
We see rapid convergence of logic and memory in a nanoelectronics platform in the near future. This new platform will require new materials, fabrication processes and manufacturing technologies. The industry is also seeing a growing demand for applications and systems that require the integration of multi-disciplinary technology components with different levels of maturity. Large-scale data centers for storage and computing needs and bioelectronics devices for point-of-care diagnostics are examples of such applications that require integrated expertise of a multi-disciplinary nature. To be well-positioned in exploiting these emerging developments and growing the local industry, the electronics cluster will intensify collaborations and exchange of technologies among SERC RIs, institutes of higher learning, and industry players.
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Last Updated on 13 Dec 2012