Environmental Surveillance and Treatment
NERI has built capabilities for sensitive air and water quality analysis to meet the increasing challenges in emerging contaminants detection. The state-of-the-art analytical instruments at NERI are able to perform high-throughput screening to in-depth analysis. NERI researchers have also developed greener methodology which include solventless and solvent-minimised miniaturised approaches for sample preparation and novel materials as sorbents for environmental contaminants. Analytical capability of NERI research teams encompasses detecting ultra-trace levels of organic and inorganic pollutants such as disinfection by-products, pharmaceuticals, endocrine disrupting chemicals, metals and microplastics. Over the years, researchers have developed novel piezoelectric sensors to detect chemical and biological pollutants, automated real-time monitoring, and micro-analytical instrumentation for onsite applications. The biomonitoring tool using zebrafish is an effective biological model for high-throughput toxicity screening of chemical compounds including water contaminants. The model allows the toxic effects of these contaminants to be assessed more quickly and at a lower cost. The environmental exposure data can be used for human health risk inference.
NERI multidisciplinary research teams are also highly trained and competent in research and development of sustainable solutions for water, wastewater and seawater treatment and reclamation. Vast knowledge has been developed on bio-inspired desalination mechanisms through studies on mangroves and euryhaline fishes, which have been used as models to provide insights into developing novel desalination devices. These include mechanisms of microscopic salt glands on the mangrove leaf surfaces responsible for the removal of excess salts from the tissues in the form of secretions, and the molecular and structural mechanisms of desalination in euryhaline fishes to maintain their body fluid homeostasis. Researchers at NERI have further ventured into the development of bio-inspired artificial channels for cost-effective and highly efficient devices for water purification.
Many of these research are conducted in collaboration with industrial partners, whereby technology and process developed at lab-scale would be test-bedded at pilot-scale and further brought forward for commercial application to realise the benefits to the industry and society.
Safeguarding water quality through detection, surveillance & modeling of emerging contaminants in the urban water cycle
E2S2 Programme hosted at NERI links interdisciplinary research themes through establishing methodologies and developing diagnostic tools for extensive surveillance of emerging contaminants (ECs) in water compartments, uncovering fate and transport through environmental models, and developing risk assessments and ecotoxicology studies providing solutions to mitigate EC risks.
Smart Water and Adaptive Technology – Big-Data Collection from the Environment
Slow sensor speed and high sensor cost remained as major challenges when incorporating robotics and IoT for environmental studies. Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI) and NERI are developing multi-robot informative-path-planning algorithms to improve measurement speed and accuracy. The researchers are also developing novel low-cost smart sensor for mass deployment to enable big-data collection from the environment.
Control of Antibiotic Resistance in Drinking Water
Antibiotic resistant bacteria/genes in drinking water pose a serious risk to public health. NERI researchers are studying the development and persistence of antibiotic resistance during drinking water treatment and distribution. The disinfection with advanced UV technology is applied to control the dissemination of antibiotic resistance in drinking water.
Development of Bio-inspired artificial channels for water purification
NUS team has designed novel synthetic oligourea foldamers with channel activities that form self-assembled nanostructures similar to proteins. Their higher resistance to microbial degradation allows the opportunities to develop artificial water/ion channels mimicking naturally occurring channel proteins. These foldamers can be used to develop cost-effective, highly efficient devices for water purification.
Dealing with Hard-to-Treat Industrial Wastewater
In Singapore, more than 50% of the water demand is used by the industry and this proportion is expected to reach 70% by 2060. Specific electrochemical advanced oxidation technologies are being developed to deal with this specific kind of wastewater characterised by high organic load and toxicity.
Sustainable Climate Resilience Seawater Desalination with Low-Chemical-Energy
NERI has embarked on projects to develop the low-chemical-energy pretreatment processes for seawater desalination. Innovations of these technologies involved the development of a robust, integrated and cost-effective electrocoagulation (EC) pre-treatment platform and process optimisation of ceramic ultrafiltration (UF) membrane for foulants removal prior to the reverse osmosis (RO) process in seawater desalination.