The robotic arm is a technology that is used in multiple industries. A paper published in the journal Sustainability has explored the use of this technology in constructing modular buildings in colder regions, where building projects may be limited by the constraints of daylight hours and low temperatures due to the needs of human operators.


Robotic Arms in Construction

Meeting the demands of modern society has driven technological innovation in multiple industrial sectors. Consequently, technological progress has prompted individuals to demand more from their living environment in terms of aesthetics and functionality, leading to building designs that provide a safer, more convenient, and comfortable environment for inhabitants. An increasingly fast pace of life and population growth facilitates increased construction efficiency.

Robotic operation route. Image Credit: Sun, X et al., Sustainability

Robotic arms are high precision, multi-input and output, nonlinear, and coupled complex systems. Their operational flexibility means they are used in a variety of hazardous environments, industrial assembly processes, and other fields. Contemporary trends in the construction industry, such as standardized design, rapid construction, and refined construction, have facilitated the adoption of innovative technologies.

Robotic arms have significant potential as a breakthrough technology in the construction sector. They can replace human operators in harmful environments, perform heavy manual labor, improve the safety of construction projects, and accurately complete repetitive motions. The development of a standardized process from design to construction will aid the application, adoption, and promotion of robotic arm technology in building projects across the world.

Modular Design

Originating from industrial design, modular design is a concept that is conducive to the standardization, generalization, serialization, and combination of industrial production. The overall product is deconstructed into modular units. The concept has been applied in numerous industrial fields such as aerospace, automobiles, electrical appliances, and construction.

The modular design method was adopted by Ford in 1913 for their production lines, and since then, architects have employed modular design to save costs and standardize buildings. Applied to architecture, modular design combines separate standardized modules with similar properties and sizes to create an entire building.

The module construction process. Image Credit: Sun, X et al., Sustainability

Modular design is economical, as units can be produced in a factory, saving cost, materials, and time. It enhances reproducibility as units are constructed to a standardized design, and units can be replaced and recycled. Finally, there are environmental benefits due to reductions in waste, the adoption of emergent design ideas, and the building area can be adjusted due to functional needs.

Modular building projects are based on the client’s functional needs, modules are designed by an architect, and the project is assembled on-site by construction teams. However, a building that is too standardized may not meet the differentiated needs of modern society. To meet these demands, digital manufacturing has become increasingly utilized in modern design.

Robotic arms are highly adaptable, and superior precision and rapid assembly can be realized by using this technology. Moreover, combining modular production with robotic arm technology can drive down traditional costs associated with construction. Computer-aided design facilitates the customizable design of modules.

Using Robotic Arms for Modular Design in Colder Regions

Large populations live in the colder regions of the world. The same as any population, individuals living in these areas require structures for domestic and commercial purposes. However, building projects in these regions face unique issues with daytime hours and frigid temperatures, especially in the winter months. The use of robotic arms in colder regions is the central focus of the new research paper published in Sustainability.

The environmental issues faced by construction projects in these areas become apparent when human workers are considered. Cold weather and limited daylight hours are major health and safety concerns for construction workers and project managers.

The main advantages of automation and robotic technologies for building projects in colder regions are obvious. Firstly, robotic arms can operate in extreme conditions and even in hours with reduced daylight. Secondly, they can perform tasks more accurately and repetitively than human workers. Thirdly, they can carry out more complex construction in a three-dimensional space.

Current literature has mostly concentrated on the applications of the technology for masonry processes using small bricks and blocks, with a lack of focus on the installation of complete modules. Thus, the new research in Sustainability has investigated the use of a robotic arm design for the assembly of overall models and integrating this concept into the entire design and construction process. A complete design method for robotic arm assembly of modular units in colder regions has been developed by the researchers. The researchers used a case study of the construction of a museum in Harbin, China. The design and construction process was entirely simulated, and design and application limitations were investigated and discussed.

The authors have proposed several design strategies and methods for modular construction utilizing robotic arm technology. Furthermore, they have identified current limitations which will inform future development and implementation of robotic arms, especially for construction in colder climates. Overall, this study is a preliminary exploration of the use of robotic arms for modular building projects in colder climates.


Source: Azo Materials

By Luke Tap, Partner at Pinsent Masons

Industrialisation gives construction industry opportunity to diversify

The shift from a site-based industry heavily dependent on physical labour to one led by technology and innovation presents a unique opportunity to diversify the construction workforce.

Construction is a historically male-dominated sector, with UK gender pay gap reporting data showing one of the largest continuing gaps in the average earnings of male and female employees. While most of the businesses in this space have put in place strategies to address diversity and measure progress, progress is slow, and with many sectors now competing to attract a new breed of tech-savvy talent action is needed urgently.

For Madeleina Loughrey-Grant, group legal director at Laing O’Rourke, industrialisation will drive both decarbonisation of the construction industry and diversity, creating opportunities to better balance the profile of the workforce and bring in new talent who may have been put off by sector’s traditional image. Earlier this year, the company hired Vicky Bullivant, former head of sustainability at Drax, as group head of sustainability – a brand new role for Laing O’Rourke.

Reassessing reputation

In the same way as we can expect a ‘rush for talent’ at senior levels a more industrialised construction industry is likely to find itself competing for talent with other business sectors, in particular technology and innovation.

But attracting – and retaining – the right talent and skills will depend on construction significantly rehabilitating its reputation, particularly at apprentice and graduate level. ‘Generation Z’, those born between the late 1990s and early 2010s, no longer anticipate having a career for life, having grown up through two recessions. They are likely to prioritise fulfilling work that aligns with their values and, in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, an agile working environment, including flexible working hours and the ability to work from home.

The construction sector tends to suffer a poor image among this age group, who may view it as dirty, old-fashioned, physically demanding and even dangerous. As construction businesses industrialise and the sectors begins to implement decarbonisation initiatives, there is an opportunity to re-set this reputation, as new types of work become available and the shift to industrialised methods drives up worker welfare and health and safety standards

Similarly, firms should also look again at existing diversity initiatives, including the work many are already doing to tackle the sector’s historic gender pay gap. Outreach programmes based on encouraging young people from diverse backgrounds to consider careers in the fields of science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM), embracing flexible and agile working in those roles where it is practical to do so, and creating mentoring, development and leadership opportunities for those from less represented backgrounds are among the options considered by employers.

Source: Pinsent Masons

New programme puts the Midlands at the forefront of Hydrogen innovation

A new programme has been launched which is designed to support and foster and creation of a new hydrogen economy in the Midlands.

‘HyDEX’ brings together the university partners in the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA), with multinational businesses, SMEs and other partners, in order to accelerate innovation in hydrogen, build markets and the supply chain, and support the skills needed for the new hydrogen economy.

The aim of HyDEX is to address the challenge of building a thriving new business, industrial and manufacturing sector in hydrogen, where very little currently exists. The programme will allow businesses to accelerate the development and viability of new hydrogen products and associated intellectual property, while supporting the transition from declining industrial sectors and enabling the training and re-skilling required.

The £4.99 million, three-year programme, funded via the RED Fund scheme, run by Research England, which is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will see the ERA university partners making available their £111m worth of hydrogen facilities, large scale demonstration programmes, and research capabilities to regional businesses.

This will be supported by the expertise of leading industrial partners in transport, heating and manufacturing technologies, who are also involved in HyDEX, these include Worcester-Bosch and Cadent (hydrogen boilers and gas networks); Intelligent Energy (fuel cells); Toyota (hydrogen vehicles); FAUN Zoeller (heavy vehicles); Cenex, ENGIE (Hydrogen Networks); Progressive Energy, ITM Motive (hydrogen generation and transport respectively); Siemens and ENGIE (hydrogen production and storage).

The universities involved in the programme include Keele (project lead), Aston, Birmingham, Cranfield, Loughborough, Nottingham and Warwick.

Civic partners such as the Midlands Engine, LEPs, local government and local authorities, will also add their weight to support the creation of a market for low-carbon hydrogen solutions as part of the net-zero transition.

There is also an international dimension to HyDEX, which will facilitate links with growing international markets in countries such as China, Australia and South Korea, where ERA partners have strong connections, in order to build commercial opportunities that reach beyond the Midlands and the UK.

Speaking about HyDEX, Professor Mark Ormerod, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost of Keele University, which is leading the programme, said: “We are very excited to be launching the HyDEX programme and leading it from Keele University. At Keele we have been leading the way in researching the use of hydrogen in the domestic gas heating system and in smart energy systems. This experience and expertise, when combined with the wealth of knowledge in the ERA partnership and our collaborators will enable HyDEX to make a significant impact on the use of hydrogen in the future.”


Professor Martin Freer, Director of the Energy Research Accelerator, added: “The ERA universities have invested significantly in hydrogen infrastructure, creating an array of great facilities and demonstration projects. The HyDEX programme will see experts from our universities, working with Midlands’ businesses to use these facilities to develop new, innovative products.”


Dr Sharon George of Keele University, Principal Investigator for HyDEX, commented: “I am looking forward to leading the HyDEX programme. It will be a great challenge -we are

seeking to support the building of a hydrogen economy where one currently doesn’t exist. I am confident that with our academic, industrial and public sector partners, we will be able to demonstrate the commercial potential of hydrogen technologies, support businesses to create products, and build the skills base needed to support the transition to hydrogen.”


Wesley Tivnen, Decarbonisation Lead for Siemens Energy, (UK and Ireland) said: “For Siemens Energy and the other business partners involved in the programme, HyDEX

provides a unique opportunity for us to develop and test our technologies and prove the worth of hydrogen as a crucial green energy source for the UK and world, as we transition to

a net-zero society.”



There is an online engagement event about HyDEX for businesses and public sector organisations interested in hydrogen technologies. It is taking place on Friday 11th February from 10am to 11.30am.

More details about HyDEX and the event can be found at:

all images courtesy of cutwork

‘Polyroom’ by cutwork opens endless possibilities for residential development

French design studio cutwork introduces ‘polyroom’, a prototype for prefab modular studio units designed for endless applications. conceived as an effort to reinvent the traditional french family living model, the structures are fully adaptable and can be stacked together like LEGO bricks to form brand new residential developments. what’s more, the custom interiors can be reconfigured for different usages, opening a wide range of possibilities in the compact space.

Polyroom explores how off-site, modular construction can help us build better, faster, and cheaper

Combating the rising housing crisis with stackable modules

The ‘polyroom’ concept was born to confront the rising housing crisis that has been concerning individuals in the last few years. according to cutwork, the UN has projected that by 2050, there will be 3 billion more people living in cities than today. if this continues at the current rate of growth for housing, more than 2 billion new homes will be constructed by the end of the 21st century — this means building a one-million person city every week.

Responding to this situation, the french practice designed polyroom as a singular module that can be produced in bulk and stacked like LEGO bricks to build complete residential blocks (polybloc) in significantly less time than conventional construction methods. modular construction can enable quick, adaptive urbanization across diverse conditions, constraints, and contexts.‘ it’s not only about building objects and spaces; it’s about crafting the systems to build them – systems to help solve the challenges ahead.’ the cutwork team shares.

Polyroom units can be used to create a rural low-rise

Adaptable interiors and planted ‘living balconies’

Polyroom is shaped as a 21 sqm (226 sqft) prefab module with interiors that can be reconfigured throughout the day to accommodate changing everyday needs and various activities. this idea is deeply inspired by the ‘washitsu’ or ‘tatami room’  — a centralized room in japanese homes that has no predefined or single dedicated purpose, but rather is an adaptive space that can take any shape responding to the inhabitants’ preferences.

Beds that disappear, foldable kitchen cabinets, rail systems with modular accessories and hidden storage space in every corner complete the interior of each unit, making for a completely rearrangeable space that can accommodate a wide range of different activities and lifestyles. in addition, cutwork has also conceived the polyrooms to promote greater biodiversity in neighborhoods, with generously planted ‘living balconies’, façades and rooftops.

Generously planted ‘living balconies’ promote a closer relationship with nature

The first polyroom implementation opens in 2023

The first implementation of the ‘polyroom’ prototype will be a co-living complex in bordeaux, france, with an arrangement of interconnected units. cutwork has partnered with bouygues immobilier, one of the largest real estate developers and operators in france, to realize the project which is expected to open in 2023. meanwhile, the company plans to open 15 sites by 2025, totaling 2,500 bedrooms for future residents.

Source: Design Boom

 Work has begun to transform a vacant brownfield site into a landmark, 30 home timber frame housing development – providing much needed affordable properties in Leeds.

 The scheme will deliver a total of 14 one bedroomed apartments, ten two bedroomed houses and six three bedroomed homes – two of which will be located on a satellite site, replacing two old properties that were previously demolished.

The homes to be built at Leeds Meynell, in Holbeck, will be 100% affordable and constructed in less than nine months, with the first residents expected to move in by early summer 2022.

 They will be built using an innovative timber frame construction process, that involves constructing elements of the properties offsite – in a factory-controlled setting – before transporting them to site for assembly. The method uses the same materials, standards and codes as conventionally built homes but the controlled plant conditions ensure the process is completed more quickly than a traditional build.

 They will be constructed using a ‘Fabric first’ approach – which involves maximising performance of the materials and components that make up the very fabric of a building. This will help to achieve a key objective of the project, which is to ensure energy efficiency, lower fuel bills and tackle the fuel poverty problems that some Leeds City Council tenants face. The eco-friendly scheme will also support the council’s commitment to reduce the city’s direct carbon emissions to net-zero by 2030 and make Leeds a greener, fairer and healthier city.

 The project is being delivered through Leeds City Council’s Housing Growth Programme (CHGP), which aims to build around 1500 new, high-quality social housing units over the next five years. Once completed, the new homes will be managed by the council and will become part of its affordable housing stock,

 Mick Holling, Managing Director with United Living New Homes North, said: “Leeds is a thriving and growing city which needs new, good quality housing to meet demand. We look forward to playing a central role in regenerating this area of Leeds and creating much-needed new homes for local people.

 “The timber frame sector is transforming the way new homes are built. It offers a comprehensive, energy-efficient and low carbon solution for social housing that is high-quality, affordable and easily accessible and adaptable”.

 Councillor Helen Hayden, Leeds City Council’s Executive Member for Infrastructure and Climate, said: “One of Leeds’ biggest priorities is to provide enough housing to meet the needs of a growing population. This is why we have developed our programme to build 1,500 new affordable homes over the next 5 years; all of which need to be high quality and accessible. Not only will this scheme positively contribute towards this ambition, it will also help us achieve our climate targets by providing people with energy efficient, low carbon homes.

 “I look forward to following the progress of this scheme and welcoming our first residents later this year.”

 As the principal contractor for the development, United Living will partner with Leeds City Council and William Saunders Architects.

Fusion energy is perhaps the longest of long shots. To build a fusion reactor is essentially to create an artificial star. Scientists have been studying the physics of fusion for a century and working to harness the process for decades. Yet almost every time researchers make an advance, the goal posts seem to recede even farther in the distance.

Still, the enormous potential of fusion makes it hard to ignore. It’s a technology that could safely provide an immense and steady torrent of electricity, harnessing abundant fuel made from seawater to ignite the same reaction that powers the sun. It would produce no greenhouse gases and minimal waste compared to conventional energy sources.

With global average temperatures rising and energy demands growing, the quest for fusion is timelier than ever: It could help solve both these problems at the same time. But despite its promise, fusion is often treated as a scientific curiosity rather than a must-try moonshot — an actual, world-changing solution to a massive problem.

The latest episode of Unexplainable, Vox’s podcast about unsolved mysteries in science, asks scientists about their decades-long pursuit of a star in a bottle. They talk about their recent progress and why fusion energy remains such a challenge. And they make the case for not only continuing fusion research, but aggressively expanding and investing in it — even if it won’t light up the power grid anytime soon.

With some of the most powerful machines ever built, scientists are trying to refine delicate, subatomic mechanics to achieve a pivotal milestone: getting more energy out of a fusion reaction than they put in. Researchers say they are closer than ever.


Fusion is way more powerful than any other energy source we have

Nuclear fission is what happens when big atoms like uranium and plutonium split apart and release energy. These reactions powered the very first atomic bombs, and today they power conventional nuclear reactors.

Fusion is even more potent. It’s what happens when the nuclei of small atoms stick together, fusing to create a new element and releasing energy. The most common form is two hydrogen atoms fusing to create helium.

The reason that fusion generates so much energy is that the new element weighs a smidgen less than the sum of its parts. That tiny bit of lost matter is converted into energy according to Albert Einstein’s famous formula, E = mc2. “E” stands for energy and “m” stands for mass.

The last part of the formula is “c,” a constant that measures the speed of light — 300,000 kilometers per second, which is then squared. So there’s an enormous multiplier for matter that’s converted into energy, making fusion an extraordinarily powerful reaction.

These basics are well understood, and researchers are confident that it’s possible to harness it in a useful way, but so far, it’s been elusive.

“It’s a weird thing, because we absolutely know that the fundamental theory works. We’ve seen it demonstrated,” said Carolyn Kuranz, a plasma physicist at the University of Michigan. “But trying to do it in a lab has provided us a lot of challenges.”

For a demonstration, one only has to look up at the sun during the day (but not directly, because you’ll hurt your eyes). Even from 93 million miles away, our nearest star generates enough energy to heat up the Earth through the vacuum of space.

But the sun has an advantage that we don’t have here on Earth: It is very, very big. One of the difficulties with fusion is that atomic nuclei — the positively charged cores of atoms — normally repel each other. To overcome that repulsion and spark fusion, you have to get the atoms moving really fast in a confined space, which makes collisions more likely.

A star like the sun, which is about 333,000 times the mass of Earth, generates gravity that accelerates atoms toward its center — heating them up, confining them, and igniting fusion. The fusion reactions then provide the energy to speed up other atomic nuclei and trigger even more fusion reactions.

What makes fusion energy so tricky

Imitating the sun on Earth is a tall order. Humans have been able to trigger fusion, but in ways that are uncontrolled, like in thermonuclear weapons (sometimes called hydrogen bombs). Fusion has also been demonstrated in laboratories, but under conditions that consume far more energy than the reaction produces. The reaction generally requires creating a high-energy state of matter known as plasma, which has quirks and behaviors that scientists are still trying to understand.

To make fusion useful, scientists need to trigger it in a controlled way that yields far more energy than they put in. That energy can then be used to boil water, spin a turbine, or generate electricity. Teams around the world are studying different ways to accomplish this, but the approaches tend to fall into two broad categories.

One involves using magnets to contain the plasma. This is the approach used by ITER, the world’s largest fusion project, currently under construction in southern France.

The other category involves confining the fusion fuel and compressing it in a tiny space with the aid of lasers. This is the approach used by the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

Replicating a star requires doing this research at massive scales, so fusion experiments often involve the most powerful scientific instruments ever built. ITER’s central solenoid, for example, can generate a magnetic force strong enough to hoist an aircraft carrier 6 feet out of the water.

Building hardware to withstand these extreme conditions is its own scientific and engineering challenge. Managing such massive experiments has also been a struggle. ITER started with an initial cost estimate of 6.6 billion euros, which has since more than tripled. It began construction in 2007 and its first experiments are set to begin in 2025.

An upside to the intricacy of fusion reactions is that it is almost impossible to cause a runaway reaction or meltdown of the sort that have devastated fission power plants like Chernobyl. If a fusion reactor is disrupted, the reaction rapidly fizzles out. In addition, the main “waste” product of hydrogen fusion is helium, an inert gas. The process can induce some reactor materials to become radioactive, but the radioactivity is much lower, and the quantity of hazardous waste is far smaller, compared to conventional nuclear power plants. So nuclear fusion energy could become one of the safest sources of electricity.

For policymakers, investing in an expensive research project that may not yield fruit for decades, if at all, is a tough sell. Scientific progress doesn’t always keep up with political timelines: A politician who greenlights a fusion project might not even live to see it become a viable energy source — so they certainly won’t be able to brag about their success by the time the next election rolls around.

In the United States, funding for fusion research has been erratic over the years and far below the levels government analysts say is needed to make the technology a reality. The US Department of Energy currently spends about $500 million on fusion per year, compared to almost $1 billion on fossil fuel energy and $2.7 billion on renewables. Investment in fusion seems even tinier next to other major programs like NASA ($23 billion) or the military ($700 billion).

So from its basic physics to government budgets, fusion energy has a lot working against it.

Fusion energy should be treated as a solution, not just an experiment

Working in fusion’s favor, however, are scientists and engineers who think it’s not just possible, but inevitable.

“I’m a true believer. I do think we can solve this problem,” said Troy Carter, a plasma physicist at the University of California Los Angeles. “It will take time, but the real issue is getting the resources brought to bear on these issues.”

Investors are also getting in the game, placing billion-dollar bets on private startup companies developing their own fusion strategies.

The journey toward fusion has yielded benefits for other fields, particularly in plasma physics, which is used extensively in manufacturing semiconductors for electronics. “Plasma processing is one of the things that make your iPhones possible,” said Kathryn McCarthy, a fusion researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

And despite the hurdles, there have been some real advances. Researchers at NIF reported last summer that they achieved their best results yet — 1.3 megajoules of output from 1.9 megajoules of input — putting them closer than ever to energy-positive fusion. “We’re on the threshold of ignition,” said Tammy Ma, a plasma physicist at NIF.

To break out of its rut, fusion will need to be more than a science experiment. Just as space exploration is more than astronomy, fusion is much more than physics. It should be a leading tool in the fight against the world’s most urgent problems, from climate change to lifting people out of poverty.

Increasing energy access is closely linked to improving health, economic growth, and social stability. Yet close to a billion people still don’t have electricity and many more only have intermittent power, so there is an urgent humanitarian need for more energy.

At the same time, the window for limiting climate change is slamming shut, and electricity and heat production remain the dominant sources of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. To meet one of the goals of the Paris climate agreement — limiting warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius this century — the world needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions by half or more by 2030, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Many of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters are also aiming to zero out their contributions to climate change by the middle of the century. Making such drastic cuts in emissions means phasing out fossil fuels as quickly as possible and rapidly deploying much cleaner sources of energy.

The technologies of today may not be up to the task of resolving the tension between the need for more energy and the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. A problem like climate change is an argument for placing bets on all kinds of far-reaching energy solutions, but fusion may be the technology with the highest upside. And on longer time scales, closer to the 2040s and 2050s, it could be a real solution.

With more investment from governments and the private sector, scientists could speed up their pace of progress and experiment with even more approaches to fusion. In the US, where much of the research is conducted at national laboratories, this would mean convincing your representatives in Congress to get excited about fusion and ultimately to spend more money. Lawmakers can also encourage private companies to get into the game by, for example, pricing carbon dioxide emissions to create incentives for clean energy research.

The key, according to Carter, is to ensure support for fusion remains steady. “Given the level of importance here and the amount of money invested in energy, the current investment in fusion is a drop in the bucket,” Carter said. “You could imagine ramping it up orders of magnitude to get the job done.”

He added that funding for fusion doesn’t have to cannibalize resources from other clean energy technologies, like wind, solar, and nuclear power. “We need to invest across the board,” Carter said.

For now, the big fusion experiments at NIF and ITER will continue inching forward. At NIF, scientists will continue refining their process and steadily work their way up toward energy-positive fusion. ITER is scheduled to begin operation in 2025 and start hydrogen fusion experiments in 2035.

Artificial star power might not illuminate the world for decades, but the foundations have to be laid now through research, development, and deployment. It may very well become humanity’s crowning achievement, more than a century in the making.


Source: Vox



ABU DHABI, UAE, Jan. 18, 2022:  Sungrow, the global leading inverter solution supplier for renewables, officially launches the brand-new central inverter — “1+X” Modular Inverter at World Future Energy Summit, a high-profile international event for global sustainability and transition to clean energy. “1+X” Modular Inverter is the most innovative central inverter solution which Sungrow is promoting worldwide and it is expected to lead the next generation central inverter designation for large-scale utility solar plants.

As the World Future Energy Summit is in full swing at Abu Dhabi, global innovators, experts, entrepreneurs and investors meet, exchange, network and trade there. As a significant participant for the Solar& Clean Energy Expo, Sungrow showcases its industry-leading solutions for residential, commercial & industrial, and utility solar and ESS application, demonstrates technological breakthroughs and innovations, and thereby, incubates business chances with potential investors. On this grand stage for global cleantech, “1+X” Modular Inverter is definitely one of the game-changing stars that shape the future energy.

The cutting-edge technologies of this product center one key word — “Modularization”. “1+X” inverter solution boasts modularization at the inverter level, the system level and the component level. Three-level modularization makes power plant design more flexible and post O&M more convenient in the future.

Firstly, “1+X” modular inverter features 1.1MW single unit as the minimum, but the block capacity can be expanded to a max. 8.8 MW by combining 8 units just like building blocks. Customers can choose from 1.1MW to 8.8 MW to meet their best demands. Secondly, the system modularization makes PV module configuration more flexible to extend. The inverter supports maximum 2 times DC/AC ratio. 1+X modular inverter has 42% more MPPT than the traditional central inverters, and it realizes the string-level management by new wireless DC combiner. Increased MPPT and more refined management lead to higher electricity generation. The DC/ESS interface built in this solution also supports connecting to energy storage system, enabling customers to enjoy the storage function for future energy usage. Thirdly, the component modularization realizes the plug and play function, reducing the maintenance from 6h to 2h. Moreover, since each inverter also works in individual unit, it can be directly replaced by onsite backup inverter if failure occurred. Hence, the three-level modularization, once again, sets this gigantic product apart from others.

Sungrow’s “1+X” Modular Inverter has soon received great popularity since its debut in Chinese domestic market in March, 2021. By far, Sungrow achieved more than 500MW order of this product and they are supplying various solar plants around China. After its release to international market, “1+X” Modular Inverter will start its clean-power journey across the world and meet the future energy demands with its outstanding flexibility, convenience, and simplicity.

Wates Residential, part of leading privately-owned construction, property services and development company Wates Group, is launching a new campaign to find innovative, sustainable technologies and materials that will help it build Net Zero homes and achieve its environmental targets.


Aiming to generate Net Zero carbon operationally and to halve energy consumption by 2025, Wates has also pledged to achieve zero waste and to make a positive contribution to nature on all its projects. As a result, it is looking for suitable materials, products and processes for the development, design, construction and sale of low to high-rise residential developments.


These could include resource efficient materials for the built environment with low embodied carbon content or those derived from natural resources. The company is also looking for suppliers that can help implement Modern Methods of Construction, as well as products that deliver significant biodiversity net gains, optimise building efficiency, help with the design and construction of zero carbon homes and save water.


Businesses keen to register their interest are being encouraged to visit and complete an application form. Suppliers will be screened by Wates’ technical advisory panel of experts and successful suppliers will be piloted on Wates sites. Successful applicants will also be registered on the Wates Innovation Network (WIN) portal, a new online hub for suppliers of environmental technologies and services. Launched in March 2021 to boost the industry’s transition to Net Zero, the first-of-its-kind and free to use network is designed to help businesses make connections and market their services across the construction industry.


Dr Zainab Dangana, Head of Sustainable Technology for Wates Group, says: “Our search for Innovation Partners and the concept behind the WIN portal is to boost the industry’s move to zero carbon and support emerging green technologies. This campaign is a continuation of our search for new suppliers with a particular focus on the design and construction of low to high-rise residential developments. There must be many businesses out there who would like to work with Wates, and we are keen to find them too.”


Shami Kaler, Technical Director for Wates Residential, comments: “Wates Residential is one of the UK’s leading developers, working with local authorities and registered providers across the South of England, London and Wales. We already use multiple technologies on site to improve environmental operations, build with Modern Methods of Construction and to Passivhaus standards, but we want to find new ways to build more sustainable homes to help us and our partners achieve our environmental ambitions.” 


Several WIN technologies have already been implemented across the Group to help Wates meet its Net Zero ambitions. An example of this is Propelair, which is an Innovation Partner that supplies water saving toilets. These have been installed at the Leatherhead headquarters to reduce water use by 87%, this has helped save carbon and provided cost savings at the same time too.

A fully integrated professional services and project management company with offices around the world, has been awarded three new contracts by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to continue work on Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP), a flagship program to design and build a commercial-scale fusion energy plant. Under the contracts, SNC-Lavalin will provide specialist engineering services and strategic advice to UKAEA, drawing on its global nuclear and fusion energy expertise and long-standing involvement with the STEP program.

SNC-Lavalin has been appointed Commercial Pathways Partner, to help pave the commercial route to realising fusion energy through a combination of engineering and techno-economic studies. A second contract for the STEP Integrated Plant Solution will see SNC-Lavalin develop the mechanical handling and maintenance strategy for this first-of-a-kind plant. The firm has also been appointed onto a new STEP Tritium Framework, drawing on SNC-Lavalin’s specialist tritium knowledge, acquired largely by the development of CANDU® technology, and supported by its international academic partners.

“Fusion energy has the potential to produce a stable, reliable and low-carbon power source that could be critical in a decarbonised energy future. Our involvement will bring together the best of UK and international expertise to solve the challenges associated with fusion energy,” said Ian L. Edwards, President and CEO, SNC-Lavalin. “Developing engineering solutions and pathways to commercialise emerging, low carbon technology is an important part of our commitment to Engineering Net Zero.”

“These contracts extend the scope of our involvement with the STEP program and we are delighted to strengthen our relationship with the UK Atomic Energy Authority as we progress this ambitious project,” said Chris Ball, Managing Director, Nuclear & Power EMEA, SNC-Lavalin.

STEP is attempting to be the world’s first commercial fusion power station, with an aim to produce a concept design by 2024, leading to a prototype plant in the UK, targeting completion by 2040. In early 2021, SNC-Lavalin was awarded the STEP Cost Modelling and Siting and Development contracts. The Group already supports UKAEA across its major programs through its position as an Engineering Design Services (EDS) framework supplier, as well as delivering the design of its H3AT Tritium recycling loop.

SNC-Lavalin brings extensive international nuclear expertise across the technology’s cycle, from international fusion science through its role as architect engineer for ITER within the Engage consortium to the design and delivery of large-scale new nuclear build and Small Modular Reactors, as well as widespread knowledge across asset operations, decommissioning and waste management.

About SNC-Lavalin

Founded in 1911, SNC-Lavalin is a fully integrated professional services and project management company with offices around the world dedicated to engineering a better future for our planet and its people. We create sustainable solutions that connect people, technology and data to design, deliver and operate the most complex projects. We deploy global capabilities locally to our clients and deliver unique end-to-end services across the whole life cycle of an asset including consulting, advisory & environmental services, intelligent networks & cybersecurity, design & engineering, procurement, project & construction management, operations & maintenance, decommissioning and capital. – and delivered to clients in key strategic sectors such as Engineering Services, Nuclear, Operations & Maintenance and Capital. News and information are available at or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.


The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) carries out fusion energy research on behalf of the UK Government. UKAEA oversees the UK’s fusion programme, headed by the MAST Upgrade (Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak) experiment. It also hosts the world’s largest fusion research facility, JET (Joint European Torus), which it operates for scientists from around Europe.

Fusion research aims to copy the process which powers the sun for a new large-scale source of low carbon energy here on earth. When light atomic nuclei fuse together to form heavier ones, a large amount of energy is released. To do this, fuel is heated to extreme temperatures, ten times hotter than the centre of the sun, forming a plasma in which fusion reactions take place. A commercial power station will use the energy produced by fusion reactions to generate electricity.

Fusion has huge potential as a low carbon energy source. It is environmentally responsible and safe, using fuel that is abundant and sustainable.  More information: Social Media: @UKAEAofficial


 A European-style house structure recently completed by FBR’s Hadrian X robot


FBR’s Hadrian X robot completes structure using Wienerberger’s Porotherm clay blocks

Australian technology firm FBR has announced it’s Hadrian X robot has completed work on a housing structure, using Porotherm clay blocks from Austrian materials producer Wienerberger.

The structure, which was built in a European housing style, with 5m-high gable ends, was constructed using Wienerberger’s largest blocks, each equivalent to 12 standard house bricks.

The robot used the largest double-leaf blocks for the external walls of the structure and single-leaf blocks for the internal walls, as well as working with Wienerberger’s own adhesive products.

The pilot project was originally planned to take place in Europe, travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic shifted plans to a specially-constructed outdoor test slab at FBR’s facility in Australia.

Both FBR and Wienerberger are now in talks to undertake a Europe-based test, when circumstances allow, with a view to establishing the process within Europe’s low-rise housing market, which is currently running at around 700,000 properties a year.

The Hadrian X robot uses dynamic stabilisation technology (DST), a system that counteracts external environmental conditions, to keep the end effector in position for highly accurate block-laying.


FBR’s managing director & CEO, Mike Pivac, said, “We are very pleased to be progressing our relationship with Wienerberger, the largest producer of clay blocks in the world.

“Both parties are committed to advancing robotic construction together and improving the efficiency, sustainability and digitalisation of the construction industry.”




Source: Construction Technology