Updated: 05/04/2013 02:09

NTU's water research institute to get $132 million from government and private sector



NTU's water research institute to get $132 million from government and private sector

The Nanyang Technological University will be getting $132 million for its water research institute, bringing its total funding to about $400 million by end 2016. 

The funds are from the government as well as MNCs and SMEs, signalling closer collaboration with industry. 

Sewage and industrial wastewater may not seem that different to the layman. 

But researchers say the industrial wastewater normally contains waste that is specific to the industry, which then requires specialised treatment systems. 

That will be one area researchers at the Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute, will look into in its second phase of development. 

Even as it refines research on protein-based membranes, which are said to be more energy efficient. 

The new wave in water purification techniques now is how to refine biomimetic membranes - said to be the next generation of membranes which are based on proteins. 

The challenge for researchers is how to lower energy consumption in the process of purifying water.

Executive Director of Nanyang Environment and National Research Institute, Professor Ng Wun Jern, on the main challenge of the wastewater treatment project. 

"Ironically, to treat wastewater - because it needs energy to do so, there is in fact an impact on the environment, so if you're going to use a lot of energy to treat wastewater, then on the one hand, you save the world by producing cleaner water, on the other hand, you may cause some damage because of the energy footprint."

" So the challenge now is number one, how do we treat industrial wastewater adequately and yet be able to do it with as little energy as is possible, and ideally perhaps even to recover energy from the industrial wastewater."

Singapore Minister of Environment and Water Resources, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan spoke of the importance of collaboration between the academia and industry. 

" We have translated a vulnerability in terms of access to water basically into now, a question of energy because with reverse osmosis, as long as I have energy, I can produce water, so water per se is not the limiting factor, but energy is. And short of a breakthrough in new renewable and cheap and plentiful energy, short of that breakthrough which I hope occurs, otherwise, the only thing we have left to rely on is energy efficiency. And that's why biomimetic membranes are going to be crucial."

"This combination of academia and industry in the real world space where there are real demands and needs, I think, this is an example of translating what was a strategic vulnerability into a global opportunity and that's why this is so important."

"The future would increasingly belong to systems that mimic nature more and more. So on the one hand, we will continue to work on engineering systems because we have to be relevant to the economy now, but at the same time, we'll put part of our efforts to look into systems that mimic nature and this could probably be ready for applications perhaps in 10 to 15 years time."

The Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute (NEWRI) has also moved into its new premises at JTC CleanTech Park, a business park catered to green firms.

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