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Research Projects To Develop Waste Management Solutions

Published at: Mar 8, 2010
source: NEA Website

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Five research projects have been awarded $4.8 million grant under the Environment Technology Research Programme (ETRP) to develop waste management solutions for Singapore.  The project is administered by National Environment Agency (NEA) and Wnvironment and Water Industry Development Council (EWI).

Singapore, 8 February 2010 – Five research projects have been awarded $4.8 million grant under the Environment Technology Research Programme (ETRP) to develop waste management solutions for Singapore. 

Administered by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and Environment and Water Industry Development Council (EWI), the ETRP is an initiative to build up technological competencies in waste management and to support a growing ecosystem of companies and researchers undertaking Clean Environment Research and Development (R&D).

The five approved projects are proposed by National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP), and they were selected after a rigorous evaluation of 67 proposals received from the academia and industry at the close of the inaugural Request-For-Proposal (RFP) on 31 August 2009. Please refer to Annex 1 for the list of approved projects.

These successful projects represent a good mix of innovative research work in the field of waste management covering the key focus areas of energy recovery, resource recovery and special waste treatment.

Mr Andrew Tan, Chief Executive Officer of NEA, said, “The encouraging response for ETRP is a reflection of the growing waste management market worldwide, an area that Singapore can tap into.  These five successful projects  possess strong scientific merits and excellent research capabilities that will help develop sustainable and cost efficient waste management solutions for use not only in Singapore but also other countries that are facing similar waste challenges.”

Details of the 5 research projects

1. Nanyang Polytechnic - Led by Ms Sim Gia Wen, the project will develop lower cost Cerium Dioxide (CeO2) catalyst elements to remove gaseous air pollutants such as Nitrogen Oxides (NOx). Presently, catalyst materials are based on the more expensive Titanium Dioxide (TiO2). This innovation could lead to further improvement in air quality and lower the cost of air pollution control solutions for waste incinerators, power stations and industrial combustion processes.

2. National University of Singapore - Prof Kang En Tang will lead a team of researchers to improve the current practices in the e-waste industry to recover heavy and precious metals. The research project will develop electro-active polymers to efficiently recover precious and heavy metals from the acid solution instead of using the more energy intensive electrolysis process. This technology allows the acid solution to be recycled and little energy input is needed as the metal extraction occurs spontaneously in the polymers. It could potentially reduce the cost of operation and make e-waste companies more competitive and sustainable.

3. Nanyang Technological University - A project led by A/P Wang Jing-Yuan will convert mixed plastic waste into higher value biodegradable polymers known as polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA). PHA is the basic building block for making biodegradable materials for e.g. in medical applications such as surgical threads. The process involves a first stage plastic-to-oil thermal conversion and second stage oil-to-PHA synthesis using PHA accumulating microbes. The research will determine and optimize the efficiency of the process in preparation for upscaling. The researchers expect PHA materials produced from waste to be much cheaper than those produce from sugar or glucose and this could bring about better environmental, economic and social benefits.

4. Nanyang Technological University – Dr Yan Rong and her team will optimise the gasification and pyrolysis technology to maximise the production of syngas and liquid biofuel from mixed waste streams. It would lead to a conceptual design of a pilot scale thermal treatment plant to convert MSW including sludge into bio-energy.  Such plants could potentially be scalable, achieve higher efficiency and have a lower environmental footprint. The NTU researchers are collaborating with Sembcorp in this project with a view to demonstrate and commercialise the technology. 

5. Nanyang Technological University – Prof Ng Wun Jern and his research team will develop technologies to accelerate landfill stabilisation and to tap the landfill as a source of energy by using an enhanced biological process. The researchers will also be using Incineration Bottom Ash as a material for landfill capping and liner membrane to gainfully utilise a residue and allow large structures on completed landfill sooner. Redevelopment of a landfill site can be in a much shorter time frame of 10 to 15 years instead of 30 to 40 years. This is the anticipated result of deploying a sequence of microbial processes for the initial conversion of complex organic matter to short fatty acids, followed by methane generation, and thereafter biogenic gases so generated will be sequestered into polymers for enhanced stabilisation and energy recovery. These can add benefits to a business model which includes increased revenue from sale of recovered energy and reduce landfill aftercare costs. The project’s benefits also include the development of chemical binding additives with IBA for landfill lining and capping materials.  This will not only help address the issue of IBA disposal but will reduce subsequent costs of construction during redevelopment by reducing the need for additional reinforcement on the soil foundation. It is anticipated the project will have commercial potential in regional markets as there is growing demand to rehabilitate old landfills near urban cities for higher value real estate developments.

The second round of RFP opened on 4 January 2010 and will close on 1 March 2010. Interested applicants are invited to submit their research proposals on waste-to-energy, waste-to-resource and special waste treatment technologies. In addition, researchers are also encouraged to submit innovative research ideas to improve thermal efficiency of waste-to-energy plants and to prolong the life span of Semakau Landfill.

More details of the second RFP are in the web-link:http://app2.nea.gov.sg/ETRP.aspx

About the Environment Technology Research Programme 
The Environment Technology Research Programme (ETRP) is an initiative to build up technological competencies in waste management and to support a growing ecosystem of companies and researchers undertaking Clean Environment Research and Development (R&D). Jointly administered by EWI and NEA, the $15 million research seed fund will be deployed over three years. It will provide funding support for Singapore-based companies, research institutes (Ris) and Institute of Higher Learning (IHLs) to develop and pilot advanced technologies for waste management. Through ETRP, the Ministry hopes to catalyse and incubate indigenous, sustainable and cost-efficient waste management solutions that are not only applicable locally but can also be exported to other cities facing similar waste challenges.

The first RFP in July 2009 was an open call on three areas of research namely energy recovery, resource recovery and special waste treatment. Under the energy recovery focus area, researchers were encouraged to develop technologies that could contribute towards achieving higher thermal efficiencies in waste-to-energy process or in converting waste into higher value energy products. The resource recovery focus area sought to develop technologies that could increase recycling rates or to increase the commercial value of recycled raw materials. The special waste treatment focus area solicited research interest on technologies that could reduce the cost of special waste treatment or development of innovative special waste treatment solutions.

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