Reflections: Curtin Sarawak’s achievements in Electrical Power Engineering over the last three years

by Dr. Nader Nassif Barsoum
                                                                                      

As I look back at what has been achieved in Curtin Sarawak’s Electrical Power Engineering programme over the last three years, the list is indeed quite impressive.

In the area of R&D, over RM900,000 in research funds from internal and external sources was obtained, and more than RM50,000 has been awarded to staff conducting research.

Many projects have been developed and are manifested in the many prototypes, small devices, pilot projects and installations of real systems. Furthermore, many research papers were successfully published in international scientific journals and conference journals (see Fig. 1).

Many students were involved in these research projects, working closely with the staff in the programme, which is in line with Curtin’s aim to be an international leader shaping the future through its graduates and research, and to be positioned among the top 20 universities in Asia by 2020.

Curtin Sarawak’s high-quality teaching and research methods give our students access to innovative advancements in research and development, engineering, science and information technology. It also means we nurture innovative and creative minds who are job-ready and geared to better the future when they graduate.

The research activities at Curtin Sarawak are an essential component of academic excellence of the University. Not only does its research contribute to advancing knowledge and providing innovative solutions to solving industrial challenges, but by drawing in students into its research activities, it provides a learning culture that promotes and develops professionalism amongst our graduates.

In many instances, the Electrical Power Engineering students’ final year projects revolved around these projects and their findings contributed greatly to their development and success.

The Electrical Power Engineering programme at Curtin Sarawak, which is identical to the Electrical Power Engineering programme offered at Curtin’s main campus in Perth, Australia, delves into the sources of electricity that generate high voltage at low frequency, with emphasis on solar, wind, biomass, hydraulic, steam, diesel and gas energy resources.

In addition, it examines electrical power distribution and components such as transmission lines, transformers, cables, protection, relays and insulation, and high voltage breakdown in gases, liquids and solids.

Students have the opportunity to study the design, performance and operation of electrical generators and motors such as the families of DC machines, induction and synchronous machines, as well as micro motors.

They also learn how power electronics and drive systems are employed; the characteristics of rectifiers, inverters, converters, VSI and CSI; and the design of hardware controllers using programmable logic controllers, embedded software programming on microchips, wireless controllers and hardware modules.

The students therefore apply the latest concepts and technologies in their projects, and customise them to meet the needs of industry, specific markets and the environment. The new technologies help us develop user-friendly and reliable systems which work at optimum operating conditions and offer high efficiency, high quality and low cost.

In order to collect as much information on the new technologies as possible and utilise them for our projects, Curtin Sarawak collaborates with numerous international scientific bodies and publishers including IEEE, Springer, Elsevier, Inderscience, IAEng, Hindawi, EUROPT, IOS, ILOG, Bentham, WSEAS, Wiley, Taylor and Francis and Professional Engineering, as well as sends delegates to related conferences around the world.

Staff of Curtin Sarawak’s Electrical Power Engineering programme have also taken part in organising an annual global power control and optimisation conference for several years. The first was held in Chiangmai, Thailand, in 2008, followed by Bali, Indonesia, in 2009, and twice in 2010 in Gold Coast, Australia, and Kuching, Malaysia. This year, the conference was held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and the next is slated for Las Vegas, USA.

The Electrical Power Engineering programme also established an online global journal of technology and optimisation in 2010. It published one issue in 2010 with 15 scientific papers, and two issues so far in 2011 with 15 papers each.

These journals and conferences publish articles and news on the new technologies in power, energy, control, bioinformatics, healthcare, marketing, finance, operation research, and methods of optimisation. They help us find the optimum ways to design affordable, long-lasting, high-quality and more efficient systems.

There are exciting times ahead for the Electrical Power Engineering programme as we pursue new endeavours that will significantly boost our research and knowledge acquisition capability in the coming years.

We are proud that much of the research that is conducted at Curtin Sarawak is grounded in the real world, with local needs and applications in mind, and have – or will someday soon – bring direct benefits to Malaysia and the social and economic status of the local communities.

Furthermore, many of our lecturers and researchers are new or early career researchers. When coupled with the high percentage of academic staff members who are PhD degree holders, this makes for a very dynamic mix of scholarly minds and talent.

Indeed, the composition of Curtin Sarawak’s academic staff and available infrastructure have determined the two objectives of the university’s R&D Strategic Plan, namely, ‘Build Research Capacity and Build a Reputation for Quality Research’.

Examples of ‘Building Research Capacity’ include delivering training programmes to enhance staff research skills, offering a reward system that motivates research practice, enhancing research infrastructure relevant to each school, establishing a critical mass of researchers, and developing staff recruitment and retention strategies to support capacity building.

Towards the objective of ‘Building a Reputation for Quality Research’, Curtin Sarawak has established and promotes a collaborative and inter-disciplinary research culture, and continually strives to attract internal and external funding.

Fig. 1: Students’ Publications & Conference Papers

  • Solar Tracking Pilot Project, Daniel Adrian, Global Journal of Technology and Optimisation GJTO, 2011
  • Solar Tracking Prototype, Din Abrar and Mohd. Arif, Global Journal of Technology and Optimisation GJTO, 2010
  • Power Converter Device, Ming Yii, Journal of Electromagnetic Analysis and Application (JEMAA), 2010
  • Sensitive Motor Speed, Raymond Choo Wee, International Conference on Computer Design (CDES), 2010
  • Temperature Control of Motors, King Seh Horng, American Institute of Physics AIP, 2010
  • Energy Saving Controller, Cheong Zhi Xiong, American Institute of Physics AIP, 2010
  • Variable Speed Drive, Cheong Zhi Xiong and Hwo Kink, Global Conference of Power Control and Optimisation PCO, 2009
  • Solar/Wind Energy Cost, Ee Sim, Global Journal of Engineering & Technology JET, 2008
  • Biomass Energy Cost, Janet Wong and Tan Ling, Proceeding of Asia Modelling Symposium AMS, 2008
  • Micro-hydro Energy Cost, Hee Yong and Annie Chang, Proceeding of Power System Analysis, Control and Optimisation PSACO Conference, 2008
  • Body Sensor; Pulse Oximeter, Cho Zin Myint, International Journal of Biomechatronics and Biomedical Robotics; Inderscience, 2011
  • Programming Micro-controller, Janng Wong, Proceeding of Asia Modelling Symposium AMS, 2007
  • Hydrogen Energy, Goh Win Chau, Proceeding of Australian Universities in Power and Energy Conference AUPEC, 2006

For more information on Curtin Sarawak or the Electrical Power Engineering programme, visit www.curtin.edu.my or e-mail enquiries@curtin.edu.my.

Dr. Nader Nassif Barsoum is an associate professor from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the School of Engineering and Science at Curtin Sarawak. He specialises in electric machine control and stability, power electronics and speed drive systems. A recipient of Curtin Sarawak’s Best Researcher Award, Dr. Nader has published two books and over 80 scientific research papers in these fields. He can be contacted by e-mail at nader.b@curtin.edu.my.

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