Breadcrumbs

Applying machine learning knowledge on campus to reduce carbon emissions

4 February 2021

Sarah Bahr

Sara Bahr started her Summer Research project not knowing anything about industrial steam boilers.

Now the fourth year University of Waikato Computing and Mathematical Science student is helping create a ‘digital twin’ steam boiler.

“It has been an amazing project.  I went in not knowing anything about chemical engineering, and not even knowing what a boiler was,” Sara says.

“But I came in with coding and software development knowledge and in 6 or 7 weeks I have learnt a lot more than I ever thought I could.”

The research could ultimately help reduce carbon emissions in New Zealand – an outcome which motivates her every day.  “The overall goal is net zero carbon emissions in New Zealand.”

Fossil fuel steam boilers are used widely as a way of creating high quality steam used in power plants.   But they cause air pollution.

Basically, Sara is looking into implementing machine learning to predict performance, using the test boiler on the University of Waikato campus.

The aim is to improve the way steam boilers work and to help reduce any emissions that may be harmful to the environment.

To do this, she has looked into creating a ‘digital twin,’ to simulate the boiler.

Through using sensors, the software records data in ‘real time’ to build a picture of what the boiler is doing at different times.

“We can predict how the boiler is acting and how it is going to react to certain changes and then from there evaluate the best ways to improve its performance.”

“With the digital twin we want to add adaptive technology and machine learning to then be able to retrofit the plant.

Sara, 21, has been working under the guidance of supervisors’ Dr Tim Walmsley, Senior Lecturer in Chemical and Process Engineering; and Dr Panos Patros, Lecturer & Deputy Head, Department of Software Engineering.

She has been offered a PhD to continue working on the project next year which has exciting potential to apply to the New Zealand industry.

“It is a multi-disciplinary project which basically teaches me thermodynamics, as well as the software side of machine learning and control.’

Sarah did her work placement in Auckland last year for medical software company Orion Health.

But she loves the energy space, and the former Hamilton Girls’ High School student aims to work in this sector when she graduates.


This research aligns with the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

Affordable and Clean Engery

Latest stories

Related stories

robotic asparagus harvester

Waikato academics leading the robotics revolution at Fieldays

Three high-tech superheroes are making their presence known at this year’s Fieldays.

New book extols the value of high-class New Zealand soils

A ground-breaking new book, The Soils of Aotearoa New Zealand, will launch during the joint…

Engineering student in NY

Fulbright scholar aims to reimagine health care using artificial intelligence

A University of Waikato Software Engineering student who received a Fulbright Scholarship to do his…

kaitlin-headshot

Creativity and technical know-how a winning combination for engineer

While some of us might think engineering is all about technical know-how, Kaitlin Te Rito…

mike-duke-in-lab

Chair role enables Engineering to advance at the University of Waikato

Thanks to a philanthropically-funded position at the University of Waikato, Professor in Engineering Mike Duke…

University of Waikato launches new artificial intelligence research institute

The University of Waikato is bringing data to life, positioning New Zealand as an international…

Taiao

Planted forests the key to unlocking water quality and availability in New Zealand

The University of Waikato and Crown Research Institute Scion are working together to improve New…

AI story

University of Waikato installs the world’s most advanced AI System

New Zealand’s most powerful supercomputer for artificial intelligence applications has been installed at the University…

Professor Craig Cary

Waikato scientist part of team awarded prestigious Human Frontier grant

Professor Craig Cary has travelled to volcanic vents at the bottom of the ocean and…

Professor Linda Johnston

Sustainability focus for new Assistant Vice-Chancellor

The University of Waikato has appointed Professor Lynda Johnston in the new role of Assistant…

“It’s a race against time”: Tauranga marine science expert advocates for sustainable approach to protect our ocean biodiversity

World-leading Tauranga marine scientist, Professor Chris Battershill, will be speaking about the importance of ocean…

TAIAO workshop

Artificial intelligence used to tackle environmental challenges

Scientists and researchers from across New Zealand are being encouraged to use a new software…