SIT has recently embarked on new applied research projects with the aim to advance the intersection of health and environment, pharmaceutical manufacturing and AI-driven education tech.
(Shutterstock photos: Thicha Satapitanon, OranzyPhotography, Sukjai Photo)
The Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) recently secured three research grants in the areas of education technology, pharmaceutical engineering and building services.
The first project sets its sights on studying the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 for effective Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) planning. The second venture aims to improve pharmaceutical and agrochemical products by developing scalable processes for creating and stabilising active ingredient particles. The third looks at harnessing the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI), web applications and gamification to enhance Mother Tongue Language learning at home.
1. Understanding Viral Transmission to Mitigate Future Outbreaks through Innovative HVAC Strategies
Lead Principal Investigator (PI): A/Prof An Hui
Co-PIs: A/Prof Victor Wang, A/Prof Soh Chew Beng, A/Prof Chien Szu-Cheng
Collaborators: Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Sengkang General Hospital
Respiratory disease COVID-19, caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2, is similar to previous outbreaks like SARS and MERS but spreads much more easily. Many people can carry the virus without showing symptoms, making it hard to control. The measures used to prevent its spread, like mask-wearing and social distancing, are still being studied to see how effective they are.
The research team is thoroughly investigating the transmission routes of viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 to propose better HVAC designs.
The research aims to investigate SARS-CoV-2 transmission routes in hospital and non-hospital settings. This will allow them to further evaluate air-conditioning and mechanical ventilation design strategies to mitigate future viral outbreaks and examine the impct of various factors on infection risks and transmission pathways.
The research team will use computer simulations to study how virus-containing droplets spread from an infected person when they breathe, talk, cough, or sneeze. Factors for consideration include ventilation, room layout, face masks, and barriers to see how they affect the droplets. Through this study, the team will determine effective recommendations for HVAC designs and other measures to reduce virus transmission risk in hospitals and other enclosed places with central air conditioning system. This research is supported by the Ministry of Education (MOE) Academic Research Fund (AcRF) Tier 2.
2. Advancing Particle Suspensions to Improve Manufactured Products
PI: Asst Prof Arif Z. Nelson
Collaborators: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) and National University of Singapore (NUS)
Industry Partners: Glaxo Wellcome Manufacturing, MSD International, Pfizer Asia Manufacturing, Syngenta Crop Protection
Factors such as the viscosity and yield stress of microparticle suspensions will be examined to develop scalable processes for application across various products.
Microparticle suspensions are an essential component in products that are designed to have controlled release rates, such as slow-releasing medicines and sprayable coatings for agricultural products. Currently, they are made using methods that can result in unstable particles. It is challenging to control their size and performance accurately, and better methodologies are needed to ensure their effectiveness and safety.
The research team comprising experts from SIT, SMART, MIT and NUS, will develop scalable processes for creating and keeping particles, in the form of tiny active ingredients, steady and well-mixed. The research will focus on precisely controlling the size and stability of particles involving tiny droplets and specially designed materials by employing advanced methods such as nano-emulsification1 and structured soft matter systems2.
The outcome of this research can lead to safer and more effective products, with potential future applications in pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals. This research is supported by A*STAR Pharma Innovation Programme Singapore (PIPS).
Nano-emulsification is a process that involves breaking down liquids into extremely tiny droplets at the nanometre scale (one billionth of a meter) and dispersing them within another liquid, forming a stable and uniform mixture on a very small scale. This process is commonly used in various industries, including food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and more, to improve the absorption, stability, and effectiveness of substances.
Structured soft matter systems is the manipulation or engineering of specific structures at the molecular or nanoscale level, which in turn affects their overall behaviour and properties, to create stable mixtures of active ingredients or improve the performance of certain products or processes.
3. Enhancing Mother Tongue Learning at Home with Interactive Education Technology (EdTech)
Lead PI: A/Prof Donny Soh
Co-PIs: From SIT -- Prof Ian McLoughlin, A/Prof Indriyati Atmosukarto, Asst Prof Rong Tong, Asst Prof Oran Zane Devilly, Asst Prof Muhamed Fauzi Bin Abbas, Jacob Abraham, A/Prof May Lim Sok Mui, A/Prof Nitin Indurkhya, Asst Prof David Miguel Sanan Baena, A/Prof Goh Weihan.
Collaborators: National Institute of Education (NIE)
Industry Partner: ConveGenius
To encourage lower primary students to revise their Mother Tongue Language (MTL) at home and increase their oral proficiency, SIT, in partnership with NIE, ConveGenius and other institutions, has commenced work on developing a collaborative education technology (edtech) platform called ‘LEARN’ – Language automated Evaluation by generating Answers/questions from caRtooNs. The edtech aims to engage students in realistic, coherent and meaningful short conversations.
The team of researchers is employing a flexible technical framework for the development of LEARN to allow the easy integration of AI technologies. This method will assist and improve students’ language skills through web applications and personalised support. LEARN also incorporates gamification to boost student motivation to learn.
The inter-disciplinary project involves several teams of researchers from SIT, NIE, ConveGenius and other institutions. (Photo: Donny Soh)
There will be three main groups engaged: teachers, schools, and students/parents. Two user-friendly web applications will be developed – one for teachers to create MTL oral tasks and another for students to use at home. The project also focuses on close collaborations with selected schools to gather feedback for the continuous improvement of the edtech, providing school management with a comprehensive overview of students’ progress.
By leveraging collaboration among stakeholders, LEARN seeks to improve language learning and leave a lasting impact on overall MTL education. This research is supported by the AI Singapore Programme funded by the National Research Foundation.