PENANG, 11 Nov – Compared to Florida which is said to receive more than 300 days of lightning and thunder annually, Malaysia experiences almost 280 days of lightning and thunder per year.
Consequently, many electrical and electronic equipment malfunction because they are unable to cope with the surge of power. When lightning strikes, there will almost certainly be reports of power failures or outages due to the high surges of electricity.
Dr. Sharom Mahmud, 46, a Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) lecturer has successfully invented a varistor that is, a piece of equipment that protects circuits against excessive transient voltages due to lightning or thunder. The varistor is far superior to the current varistors in the market (and which follow international standards) and is capable of providing control at nano level.
The product is not only twice as good as the varistors currently being sold in the market, but it is also cheaper, and uses nanotechnology.
According to Sharom, the nanotechnology-based varistor is the first of its kind produced in the country and has a very high energy absorption capacity for a varistor.
He added that the varistors currently in use for electrical equipment in the home such as television sets, computers, refridgerators and others are only able to withstand an electrical surge of not more than 500 amperes according to intenational standards, based on the 13-mm varistor model and a voltage of less than 20 volts.
“With nanotechnology, we have succeeded in producing a varistor that can absorp electrical surges of up to 2 000 amperes and has been proven to have no side effects or cause damage to electrical products,” he said.
He said this at a press conference to introduce the product here today. Also present at the press conference was the Dean of the School of Physics, Assoc. Prof. Haslan Abu Hassan.
Dr.Shahrom went on to say that the varistor, known as the HP Varistor is 30 percent cheaper than the varistor currently available in the market.
He added that the cost of a varistor in the market is approximately RM 1.26 sen for the 13-mm low voltage model while his invention is estimated to cost not more than RM0.70 sen a unit.
“We utilize equipment and local raw materials that are cost effective and at the same time can generate profits of more than 50 percent of the initial investment,” he said.
Dr.Sharom, who specializes in nanophysics stressed that the HP varistor was developed using world-class equipment at the Nano Optoelectronic Research Laboratory (NOR), USM with an incentive grant of RM 10 000.
He added that the idea to develop the high-performance varistor came about as a result of the constant problems involving loss of property due to electrical surges as a result of thunder and lightning.
“I developed this varistor, designed specifically to absorb the excess electrical energy, thereby making it the most effective solution to overcome the problem of damaged electrical equipment resulting from electrical surges,” said Dr. Shahrom, who has been involved in this field for more than 16 years and has worked as an engineer in a factory producing varistors.
The varistors are made from zinc oxide and Dr. Shahrom is currently the consultant to a company producing local zinc oxide and another factory based in Canada.
The product is being patented and numerous questions are being asked as to when it will be commercialized. The product has won several awards internationally including the Gold Medal at the International Exposition of Research and Innovation of Institutions of Higher Learning (PECIPTA) 2009 and the Silver Medal at the International Invention, Innovation, Industrial Design & Technology Exhibition (ITEX 2008).