​NTU scientists first from Singapore to receive prestigious international water research prize

(From left) PSIPW Chairman H.R.H. Prince Khaled Bin Sultan Bin Abdulaziz and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presented NTU Professor Wang Rong with the Alternative Water Resources Prize. Far right is Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdulrahman al-Fadhli. Photo credit: PSIPW

Two scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) are the first from Singapore awarded the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water (PSIPW).

Established in 2002, the biennial award from Saudi Arabia recognises top innovative scientific research around the world that alleviates the global problem of water scarcity.

Professor Wang Rong and Professor Anthony Fane from NTU Singapore are recipients of the Alternative Water Resources Prize, one of the five prizes under PSIPW.

The award recognises the work done by the NTU team led by Prof Wang who developed a novel thin film composite hollow fibre membrane with superior performance. It can reduce membrane fouling and scaling, thus less energy is needed in the water reclamation and recycling process.

This breakthrough combines forward osmosis, an emerging membrane process for water treatment, with existing technologies such as reverse osmosis, a process commonly used in seawater desalination, to create novel hybrid membrane systems for a wide range of applications.

An improved version of the membrane was recently identified by PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency, as one of the research projects with commercial potential. The public agency is encouraging industry partners to collaborate with the NTU team to commercialise the membranes, with support from research funds administered by PUB.

The new membrane technology is also in trials with industry partners for the treatment of processed water in the oil and gas industry as well as for application in the food and beverage industry.

At the awards ceremony held at the United Nations headquarters in New York on 2 Nov (Singapore’s time 3 Nov), Professor Wang received the prize from PSIPW Chairman H.R.H. Prince Khaled Bin Sultan Bin Abdulaziz and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who presided over the event.

Professor Wang, the Chair of NTU’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said, “The spirit behind the Alternative Water Resources Prize is on innovation and the nurturing of young talent. No one technology can always remain relevant in the light of ever-changing demographics, economics and climate. It is only through developing the competencies of young researchers and investing in the next generation of water scientists and engineers that we can continuously create innovative technologies for our future water security.”

Professor Wang is also Director of the Singapore Membrane Technology Centre (SMTC), a research centre under NTU’s Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI).

Professor Fane, Founding Director of SMTC and now a Visiting Professor at NTU said, “I am very honoured to share the prestigious PSIPW Alternative Water Resources prize with my colleague Professor Wang Rong. We have both worked very hard, with our team, to build up the Singapore Membrane Technology Centre at NTU’s NEWRI to be a global leader in membranes and sustainable water. This prize is a great recognition of these efforts.”

The Alternative Water Resources Prize awards a cash prize of US$133,000 (S$185,000) and covers research relating to areas such as wastewater treatment, water purification and cloud seeding. This year the prize received 32 nominations from more than 20 countries.

Professor Wang has over 20 patents for novel membrane fabrication. She is the Editor of the Journal of Membrane Science, a top journal on membranes. She is also the founding President of the Membrane Society in Singapore.

Professor Fane was the founding director of the Singapore Membrane Technology Centre. He took on subsequent roles as SMTC’s Co-Director and Director-Mentor. He is also a former member of the World Health Organisation’s Desalination Guidelines steering committee.

Both Professor Wang and Professor Fane have been named by research and advisory firm Lux Research to be among the top 25 leading water researchers globally.

Source: NTU