Environmental Surveillance and Treatment

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NERI has built capabilities for sensitive air and water quality analysis to meet the increasing challenges in emerging contaminants detection. NERI houses state-of-the-art analytical instruments that can perform high-throughput screening to in-depth analysis. They have the capability of detecting ultratrace levels of organic and inorganic pollutants such as disinfection by-products, pharmaceuticals, endocrine disrupting chemicals, and metals. In addition, its researchers are developing novel piezoelectric sensors to detect chemical and biological pollutants, automated real-time monitoring, and micro-analytical instrumentation for onsite applications.

NERI researchers have developed zebrafish as 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.

Researchers at NERI are also developing novel methods for water reuse such as using multifunctional polymeric nanomembranes for the removal of nanomaterials from water.

Highlights

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Development of Sensors and Incorporation of Platform Technologies for Surveillance of Water Bodies

A fine example is the New Smart Water Assessment Network – NUSwan – a patented robotic swan designed for continuous monitoring of water quality and providing real time data collection at a much improved spatial-temporal resolution. It uses GPS guidance to autonomously cruise and send data wirelessly via cloud computing. This allows stakeholders to quickly and efficiently interpret dynamic and evolving situations in water bodies and activate appropriate responses when necessary.

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Aquatic Biomonitoring

Both the medaka and zebrafish have been genetically engineered for monitoring environmental pollution. Several green fluorescent protein (GFP) transgenic medaka lines have been engineered to respond to several classes of environmental contaminants including estrogenic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals. The genetically engineered fish glows in the presence of water contaminants, representing a quick early-warning system.

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Boosting Surveillance of Waterborne Pathogens in Water

Bacterial contamination of public water supplies is always a concern. The current standard of detection uses culture-based methods. At NERI, researchers are characterizing bacterial communities of local water bodies and developing newer methods based on cell and molecular biology techniques to accelerate the detection process.

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Development of Bio-inspired Membrane for Water Purification

Mangroves and euryhaline fishes have evolved efficient mechanisms to thrive under a saline environment. The underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. As these are efficient natural desalination organisms, the study of these organisms provides insights into the development of novel, bio-inspired desalination devices. The long-term goal of the team is to develop an optimal polymeric desalination membrane that has greater cost-effectiveness (efficiency and/or energy-saving) than synthetic membranes.

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Development of Methods for Detection and Removal of Nanomaterials from Water Using Multifunctional Polymers

Increased use of nanomaterials in commercial products raises the possibility of toxicological impacts on humans through environmental contamination. Uncontrolled usage and waste disposal also increases the contamination of the water supply. At NERI, research on this issue focuses on the detection and removal of nano-pollutants from water and integration of new technologies with existing water purification methods.

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Assessment of the Impact of Re-Mineralised Seawater Reverse Osmosis Product on the Stability of Water Distribution Piplelines

Little Information is available on the long term effects of post-treated desalinated water on corrosion and scale formation of water distribution pipes. The monitoring of pipeline materials corrosion condition and water quality is crucial for water quality management in drinking water distribution networks

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Bioretention Systems Development for Sustainable Stormwater Management

In this work, the focus is on the development of unique engineered soil and the installation of bioretention testbeds specifically designed for the local context. Bioretention systems have been installed at different premises around Singapore. These bioretention systems are engineered to significantly reduce the amount of pollutants entering the waterways and reservoirs, and thus improve water quality.

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Strategic Studies of Singapore’s Atmospheric Environment

Urban air quality and aerosol sciences have been major research foci of NERI. NERI is currently leading a team of experts in collaboration and with support from the Singapore government, to study these fields. An in-depth understanding of the sources, quantity and chemical composition of aerosols in our ambient environment is crucial to evaluate effectiveness of policies/regulations and map out mitigation strategies.