The HKIE Enginpreneurs Award 2021 -- Young Innovators

Project Title: A Solar Power System for Producing Useful Fuels and Chemicals from Waste Materials

In the last century, conventional fossil fuels and biomass waste materials have created detrimental impact on the environment and alternative clean sources of energy are called for. As a result, an innovative solar power system (SPS) that comprises the concepts of applying solar energy and waste-to-energy is proposed by three final year Mechanical Engineering students and supervised by Professor Dennis Y.C. Leung, Head of Department of Mechanical Engineering. The fabricated SPS captures the thermal heat energy in sunlight to transform biomass waste materials into useful fuels such as charcoal, biochar and activated carbon (AC) through pyrolysis. Moreover, the fabricated SPS can be solely driven by solar energy and achieved zero-carbon emission. It is hoped that this project can contribute to the development of combing renewable energy sources and promote the use of renewable energy in developing countries.

The SPS consists of three special features: first, a solar parabolic trough that worked as the concentrated solar power collector; second, a solar tracking system which allows the SPS to harvest the maximum amount of sunrays; and third, a solar power supply system for power supply to the SPS. The goal of the project is to evaluate the performance of the SPS in char and AC production. Thus, studies to obtain the optimum conditions for char production from different biomass waste materials, fabrication of the SPS, performance testing of products, and economic analysis of the system were conducted and analysed. Results from the tests indicate that, first, a higher temperature and longer duration are favourable to the production of char while countryside wood, bamboo and peanut shell are the best biomass waste material for charcoal, biochar and AC production, second, the fabricated SPS can be solely driven by solar power with zero-carbon emission during operation and conversion, and third, the SPS is generally economically viable with a short payback period of less than seven years.

We are delighted to be awarded the first runner-up of The HKIE Enginpreneurs Award 2021 – Young Innovators, as well as the InnoShow Award which was organised by the Innovation Academy, under HKU’s Faculty of Engineering. These prestigious opportunities not only allow us to interact and share our innovative ideas with other young innovators, but also motivate us to contribute to sustainable Hong Kong. We hoped that the project will contribute to the environment and lead to the optimization of green power storage using cost-effective designs.

Team information:

Supervisor: Professor Dennis Y.C. Leung

Project leader: Leung Hoi Yan, Macy

Team member: Wong Lut Sam, Serena and Chan Yat Fung, Iva