| Siti Hajar |
WITH research at the forefront of the country’s ambition towards enhancing the potential of its human resource pool and placing its local institutions as among the main hubs for research in the region, a group of researchers from Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) are preparing themselves to fill a gap in the marketing of energy-saving products.
Under the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB)’s Brunei Research Incentive Scheme (BRISc) to encourage international companies to invest in the country, Pialex Technologies yesterday shared that the research has successfully resulted in the patenting of its polarising roofing tile paint material made with photocatalytic technology.
The product, which the six-member team ambitions to commercialise locally in less than two years following even more intensive research and development, has in mind in answering His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s titah last year that aims to see a reduction of local energy consumption by 63 per cent by 2035.
Two PhD and four Masters students are among the selected team members working on the project.
“What the product does, in essence, is deflect the sun’s rays away from buildings that will essentially reduce the building’s temperature, cooling it down and will reduce the need for energy that goes into powering air conditioners,” explained Pialex Technologies’ Dr Toru Kitamura and assistant researchers, PhD student Nur Fajrini Matjalina and Masters student Hj Muhd Redza Hj Hussin, in an interview yesterday.
The research, a first of its kind in the world, caters to tropical climates such as Brunei’s, with Japan already using the same type of technology to cater to its different seasons.
The next seven months aims to see even more patents stemming from the research, to a total of at least five by the end of the research and development stage.
Though the product may be ready to hit the mass market, work still needs to be done to ensure that it is affordable enough for the general public. But due to the material invested into producing the product, it was acknowledged that, “It may be slightly more expensive compared to the more conventional housing paints.”
However, the benefits of coating a building with this material will prove to be among the money and energy saving moves that will benefit users and the country as a whole.
The product is created to last between 10 to 20 years and is made in such a way that it is not prone to accumulate dirt.
Being the first research of its kind especially in Brunei, among the challenges that the young team had to overcome was learning the basics of making the paint from scratch, the analysis process, and using the high-tech equipment that had to be specially ordered.
As young Bruneians working under the guidance of a Japanese-based company that specialises in this form of research, the local team comprising young men and women expressed their gratitude for being provided with the opportunity to learn from the best in the industry.
With BEDB fronting $3 million as part of the government’s initiative in encouraging such research and the growth of human capacity development, the technology transfer from international companies such as Pialex Technologies will facilitate the country’s ambition towards developing a knowledge-based economy whilst at the same time providing the next generation of leaders especially in the sciences with the opportunity to practice their trade and provide better job matching for locals with both local and international based companies.
A cost-sharing grant created to address the funding needs of private sector research and development that is available for both local and foreign companies, BRISc caps funding at $5 million per project for a duration of three years.
Research conducted by Pialex Technologies that has teamed up with an institute of higher learning, for example, is funded 70 per cent by the government whilst the other 30 per cent is funded by the company itself.
The other two eligibility systems include 80 per cent government funding for local companies and 50 per cent funding for foreign companies without local collaborators.
The five focus areas of research under the grant comprise energy, environment, food security, healthcare or health sciences and ICT.
Other projects under consideration include food, nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and screening products for cancer and viral diseases as well as water and solar technologies.