'Teabag' to boil water and other energy-saving ideas

72 teams took part in inaugural Energy Innovation Challenge

In the future, all you might need to heat a kettle of water is a special teabag filled with waste from the burning of fossil fuels.

A team of Secondary 3 students from St Joseph's Institution (SJI) has created a prototype of a teabag filled with fly ash, a by-product of burning coal.

Fly ash contains calcium oxide, which reacts with water to heat water up to more than 150 deg C.

"In theory, this teabag could help to reduce waste from coal power plants and also help people to save electricity," said 15-year-old team member Toh Pei Qi.

The SJI team was one of 72 taking part in the inaugural Energy Innovation Challenge, which was part of the three-day National Engineers Day event that ended at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre yesterday.

Over four months, the teams designed ways to use alternative energy sources, guided by professional engineers and business mentors.

The Institution of Engineers Singapore and Science Centre Singapore organised the contest.

Its chief judge, Professor Lui Pao Chuen, who was Singapore's chief defence scientist, said that "the revival of interest in engineering" was evident by the large number of entries.

After the challenge's final round yesterday, Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat presented awards to three winning teams, from Anglo-Chinese Junior College, ITE College West and SIM University.

They had come up with projects to generate electricity from wind and cool down flats without using air-conditioning.

Mr Heng also announced that the Ministry of Education will introduce further mathematics as an H2-level subject in the A-level curriculum next year. It will expose students to advanced mathematical concepts and enable them to see how maths lies at the heart of modern innovations such as Internet search engines.

He said: "This will create more opportunities for our young people to develop a stronger interest and foundation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics... As a people, it is increasingly important for us to constantly ask how we can do things better."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2015, with the headline ''Teabag' to boil water and other energy-saving ideas'. Print Edition | Subscribe