Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation
School of Chemical Engineering

2017 Finalists

Main Competition

First Prize:  The SISCA $12,500 Cash Prize and Dow Centre Business Proposition Grant of $12,500

Yousef Al-Qaryouti 
The Deployable House – Executive Summary
Yousef Al-Qaryouti with the 2017 SISCA judgesRecently, prefabricated and modular homes are gaining renewed interest due to worldwide focus on sustainability. According to a new report issued by Global Industry Analysis Inc. (GIA), 2015, global shipments of prefabricated homes are projected to reach 1.1 million units by 2020, driven by renewed interest in prefabricated and modular housing. Over the years, prefabricated homes have evolved in terms of design flexibility and quality. Today, prefabricated houses are one of the most sought after forms of affordable housing, with cost savings realized through the streamlined production process rather than government subsides.

According to UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), 2016, an unprecedented 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home. Based on UN Habitat statistics, more than 23 million people were made homeless by natural disasters in the past ten years. Moreover, an estimated 100 million people worldwide are homeless. About 1-in-4 people live in conditions that harm their health, safety, prosperity and opportunities. It estimates also that by 2030 about 40 percent of the of the world’s population will need access to housing. This translates into a demand for 4,000 new affordable homes every hour. UNHCR annual budget rose to more than US$ 1 billion in the early 1990s and reached a new annual high of US$ 7.7 billion in 2017 to support those people with homes and services. Based on an article published in International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction (September 2017), the cost of providing one temporary house for people who are suffering natural disasters is around 70,000 USD.

Australian researchers have identified prefabricated modular construction as an effective method for low-cost and rapid post-disaster reconstruction. However, manufacture of prefabricated systems requires specialist expertise and facilities, so reconstruction investment is diverted out of the local economy to the detriment of long-term recovery. There is a need for an innovative prefabricated modular house that can be rapid and easy to construct and provide suffering people with affordable safe housing in short-time. 

I have developed an innovative prefabricated house design that retains the streamlined construction of prefabricated systems and could additionally be fabricated without the need of specialist expertise or facilities. Such system would enable the establishment of a distributed on-site manufacturing network to service rapid infrastructure demands after extreme events. This innovation will be beneficial for re-housing for Australia following natural disasters such as bushfires, floods or Cyclones. In addition, it can be extended globally. 


Runners Up:  

Daniel Hubbard & David Nelson  (Early Concept Grant of $2,500)
The global energy crisis is leaving 1.2 billion people without electricity and is the leading cause of manmade climate change. Photovoltaic solar panels are currently the cheapest form of electrical energy generation and its decentralised nature makes it ideal to service the many remote communities without power. The Achilles heel of solar power is energy storage for electrical use at night. Li-ion battery technology is leading the pack of decentralised energy storage solutions. The price of Li-ion batteries has dropped 80% in the last decade, a trend that is likely to continue. What is needed is an integrated solar power and li-ion battery system that can be decentralised to reach remote communities at a price point they can afford.

The POWERCUBE is the desperately needed solution designed for those who don’t have access to electricity as well as the rest of us who use electricity generated from polluting and unsustainable sources. It consists of three basic components shown in figure 1: the solar panel that generates the electricity ($60), the battery module that stores the energy ($20) and the outlets which appliances plug into ($20). 

The POWERCUBE has three main differentiating factors: Cost, Safety and Modularity. 

  • Cost: The initial system costs $100, orders of magnitudes less than any other competing product. At this price, it is affordable even to those I surveyed in Indian slum communities. Also, the POWERCUBE’s cost per kilowatt hour is 15% cheaper than the Tesla Powerwall.
  • Safety: The electrical system is 12V making the POWERCUBE safe. The unique electrical clip connection makes installation intuitive and makes incorrect wiring impossible. Broken components can easily be replaced. Numerous independent safety measures ensure the batteries do not exceed their operational parameters.
  • Modularity: The POWERCUBE system can be modularly expanded to any capacity meaning that it is flexible to meet the dynamically changing needs of the end user.  

A working prototype has been developed (video demonstration and we have obtained a customer who wants to install it as the electrical system for the HOMECUBE house he is currently constructing (see 2016 Finalists). Many industry contacts with both suppliers and distributors have been developed. For example, Pollinate Energy who currently sell solar lights in slum communities has expressed interest in this product. With SISCA funding we will be able to develop a commercial product and bring it to mass production.  

Nathaniel Deering  (Early Concept Grant of $2,500)
A Low Cost Environmental Monitoring Sensor System – Executive Summary
The monitoring of water quality is essential for catchment evaluation and management, which is often perceived to be the water colour and algae bloom state in river/lake systems. This is often governed by high flow/flood events. Current monitoring stations for major events are expensive and sparse with events being beyond detection of the standard monitoring equipment within the stations. To address the issue of expensive equipment and detection limits, a different approach is required. 

The low cost sensors are constructed from readily available retail electrical components. The construction of the sensors is simple and able to be further simplified with mass manufacturing through investment. Despite the probes being low cost, the challenge lies within the probe calibration. This requires an in depth knowledge of factors involved in providing reliable data accuracy. 
The current iteration of sensors are capable of measuring key environmental parameters such as: 

  • Turbidity
  • Temperature & conductivity (salinity)
  • Pressure (depth)
  • pH

When implementing the sensors, additional data collection techniques and lab analysis can provide all parameters required for water quality. These addition techniques include the use of USGS single stage samplers, time-lapse imagery, and bathymetry. 
In the current state, the sensors are ready for market and have already been implemented in catchment monitoring projects. The sensors were presented and received feedback at the annual Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography conference 2017 in Honolulu, where interest was shown and feedback provided for improvement and implementation. 

Water quality is critical for the management of water supply and agricultural runoff, water infrastructure and downstream tourism. This creates a large demand for water quality data, which is currently provided at fixed locations by government organisations. The opportunity available is to enter the market at a greatly reduced cost (1-3 orders of magnitude), with current monitoring station costing in the range of $200,000 each as opposed


Early Concept Grant Applications

Six Early Concept Grants of $2,500 were awarded:

Sasikrishna Reddy K., John Malise Pathi, Abinav Kumar and Sangameshwaran
Organic Waste Compacting Bin
A complete and efficient system for disposing of organic waste in waste capsules.

UQ Folded Structure Group – Quan Shi, Weiqi Cui and Ya Ou
Origami Aircraft Fuselage
A new generation of light-weight structures using origami sandwich panels, with possible applications in the aircraft and construction industry.

Abe Max Solutions – Abe Green & Max Bankowski
PODS in the Park
Low cost short-term accommodation for the homeless, providing safe and transportable housing using a flat pack capsule design

Duy Huu Nguyen and Son-Duy Tran
Sustainable Concrete Road Pavement Design
An innovative concrete pavement structure  is proposed, using recycled materials, with improvements in drainage capacity and noise reduction.

Hemit – Emily Critchley, Emi Ariga, Huong Do, Samuel Williams and Tobias Jukes
The D-Tector
A diagnostic tool that correlates UV exposure to vitamin D levels, empowering physicians and the elderly to make healthcare decisions.

Advanced Agriculture – Rynhardt Grove
Modularised Greenhouses for Sustainable Agriculture
A modularised hydroponic system aimed at aiding water and food scarcity concerns in rural and developing areas.