Water research in NUS Engineering addresses both science and technology issues to ensure resilience of our water supply within the constraints imposed by our challenging environment. The multi-pronged approach covers water resources and management, water and wastewater treatment for reuse, as well as ensuring high quality water, including the development of novel techniques to combat emerging microbial contaminants and toxins.

Currently, there are four main research themes under Water research:

  • Water Quality
  • Water and Wastewater Treatment Technology
  • Membrane Technology
  • Water Resource Management

Water Quality

A critical water quality issue is emerging contaminants and organic pollutants of concern in tropical urban catchments. NUS Engineering has analysed emerging organic contaminants (including pharmaceuticals, personal care products and endocrine disrupting chemicals), characterised the level of antibiotic resistance in the environment, studied the dynamics and mechanisms of toxin/off-flavour production in freshwater algal blooms, and cultivated novel microbes for pollutant removal in industrial wastewater and environments.

Water and Wastewater Treatment Technology

To achieve self-sufficiency in water, energy efficient and resilient technologies for water reuse have been successfully developed. Specifically, pilot-scale Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) studies are being carried out to refine the energy and space efficient design and operating protocols developed from our earlier lab-scale study for adoption in the next mega-scale water reclamation system to be built by Public Utilities Board (PUB). On another front, an integrated microbial electrochemical sensor (MES) system has been developed to provide continuous online monitoring of any toxic compounds present in the water that may impact used water treatment processes in PUB water reclamation plants.

Membrane Technology

NUS Engineering focuses on upstream research and develops future-oriented solutions in:

  • Recycling industrial wastewater via nano-filtration (NF),
  • Exploring the geothermal energy for water production via membrane distillation (MD),
  • Studying 3D printing for membrane fabrication,
  • Water Resource Management
  • Harvesting energy from concentrated brine disposed from MD and reserve osmosis (RO) plants with the aid of forward osmosis (FO) to lower the overall energy for desalination.

The objective is to bring innovative membrane technologies to water production and desalination industries, and to produce clean water at a much lower cost. With the aid from PUB and the National Research Foundation (NRF), NUS Engineering is actively working on PRO and RO integration.

Water Resources Management

A very important link to ensure resilience, water resource management is an interdisciplinary research area concerned with environmental and water resource systems, as well as associated water infrastructure. NUS Engineering’s interests cover the entire hydrological cycle, including coastal and oceanographic processes, inland water systems, urban water management, water quality and groundwater. Our research is particularly concerned with the development of scientific and technological advancements in support of climate-resilient water management strategies.