The role of materials engineers in driving NETR
By: Assoc. Prof. Ir. Dr. Wong Yew Hoong
Malaysia’s National Energy Transition Roadmap (NETR), unveiled recently by the Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim in August 2023 is a bold and transformative step towards a sustainable energy future. This visionary plan aims to reshape Malaysia’s energy landscape by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing the use of renewable energy sources, and promoting energy efficiency. At the heart of this ambitious endeavour are materials engineers, whose innovative work is instrumental in shaping the NETR’s success. In this article, we explore the perspectives of materials engineers and their vital role in driving Malaysia’s journey towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy landscape or ecosystem.
As a materials engineer, I’ve had the privilege of being part of the sustainable energy revolution that the NETR represents. Our field of expertise encompasses the development, design, and optimization of materials that underpin the technologies essential for sustainable energy production, storage, and consumption. Here are some key insights into the vital role that materials engineering plays in the NETR, including the development of electric vehicles (EVs) in Malaysia:
1. Advanced energy storage solutions
In the transition to renewable energy sources like solar and wind, energy storage becomes paramount. Materials engineers are at the forefront of developing high-performance battery materials. These materials allow for efficient energy storage, enabling Malaysia to harness and store excess energy generated by renewables during sunny or windy periods for use when demand is high. This capability reduces reliance on fossil fuels and enhances grid stability.
2. Innovating solar and wind technologies
The success of solar panels and wind turbines in Malaysia hinges on materials engineering. We are tasked with improving the efficiency and durability of these technologies. By designing materials that can withstand the country’s tropical climate and variable weather conditions, we ensure that these renewable energy sources remain reliable and effective.
3. Sustainable and resilient infrastructure materials
Sustainable construction materials are a linchpin of the NETR. As materials engineers, we contribute by developing environmentally friendly building materials. These materials offer superior insulation properties, reducing the energy required for heating and cooling in buildings. They align with the NETR’s objectives of promoting energy-efficient structures and sustainable urban development.
Climate change and extreme weather events necessitate the development of resilient infrastructure materials. Materials engineers focus on creating materials capable of withstanding severe conditions, safeguarding the reliability of Malaysia’s energy infrastructure and aligning with the NETR’s resilience goals.
4. Eco-friendly manufacturing practices
Sustainable manufacturing processes are integral to the NETR. Materials engineers work tirelessly to develop materials and processes that reduce the environmental impact of industries. Green composites, for instance, are emerging as alternatives to conventional materials, minimizing carbon emissions and resource consumption.
5. Biofuels and biomaterials
In line with Malaysia’s diversification of energy sources, materials engineers are actively involved in biofuel research. These renewable fuels, derived from organic materials, offer a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels. Biomaterials also contribute to the sustainable production of goods and chemicals, aligning with the NETR’s goals of reducing carbon emissions.
6. Recycling and circular economy
Sustainability and resource conservation are central to the NETR. As materials engineers, we actively design products and materials with recyclability in mind. Our efforts promote a circular economy, minimizing waste and contributing to responsible resource management.
7. Pioneering EVs and expansion of EV charging infrastructure
Electric vehicles are a vital component of Malaysia’s sustainable transportation future. Materials engineers are instrumental in advancing EV technology. We focus on developing lightweight and high-performance materials for EV components, such as batteries, motors, and chassis. These materials enhance EV efficiency and range, making electric vehicles more accessible and environmentally friendly.
As part of the NETR, expansion of EV charging infrastructure is paramount to make EVs a convenient and viable option for transportation. This includes the installation of charging stations at various locations, including educational institutions like Universiti Malaya. These efforts aim to encourage EV adoption and support a greener mode of transportation within the campus and beyond.
In conclusion, as materials engineers, we are privileged to contribute to Malaysia’s National Energy Transition Roadmap (NETR) by driving innovation and sustainability. Our work touches every aspect of this historic transition, from energy storage solutions to renewable technology optimization, eco-friendly manufacturing, infrastructure resilience, electric vehicles, and the promotion of recycling. As we remain at the forefront of this transformative journey, we are committed to shaping a cleaner, more sustainable, and brighter energy future for all Malaysians.
Together, we are driving the NETR towards success, and the possibilities are boundless.
The author is an Associate Professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Universiti Malaya, and may be reached at [email protected]