Researchers in Singapore are set to build a test a new industrial wastewater treatment plant that they believe could potentially reduce the amount of waste by over 90%.

The pilot plant is being built by the Separation Technologies Applied Research and Translation (START) Centre and Memsift Innovations and is also capable of recovering precious metals from the treated water which can then be sold and reused.

The plant, which will be set up at a semiconductor company in Singapore, uses a novel water treatment system that features a new type of hollow-fibre membrane invented by Professor Neal Chung at the National University of Singapore.

Cost savings

What sets the new tri-bore hollow-fibre membrane apart from typical hollow-fibre membranes, are three hollow cores that allow for a water flow rate which is about 30% higher.  Once installed the new pilot plant will treat up to 5 000 litres of water per day for the semiconductor firm.

The plant is expected to help the firm save up to 1.6 million litres of water a year  resulting in a savings of $250 000 in disposal cost. It will filter over 90% of wastewater into clean water and concentrate the metal waste into a liquid, which can then be sold to other companies.

Scaling up novel technologies

Dr Adil Minoo Dhalla, Managing Director of START Centre, says this is the first successful licensing agreement achieved by the national-level centre since it started in 2016, which seeks to turn cutting-edge membrane research from Singapore’s universities into real products usable by multinational and local companies.

“Using our cutting-edge membrane fabrication, module design and testing facilities, we are able to scale up novel technologies from Singapore’s institutes of higher learning rapidly and to test them in real-life environments to validate their commercial value,” adds Dr Dhalla.