News Details | 11-Jul-2012

NTU and NUS PhD students recognised for outstanding environmental and sustainability research

Ten cash prizes totalling US$100,000 awarded by the World Future Foundation to credit research efforts towards creating innovative solutions to environmental issues

The Nanyang Technological University (NTU), National University of Singapore (NUS) and international philanthropic organisation World Future Foundation Ltd (WFF) presented ten outstanding PhD students who have excelled in their theses related to the environment, sustainability and metropolis of the future at an award ceremony today. Each winner of the "WFF PhD Awards in Environmental and Sustainability Research" received a cash prize of US$10,000.

Awarded by the WFF, these PhD Prizes are Singapore's first-of-its-kind award to recognise excellence in doctoral-level (PhD) environmental and sustainability research. This is also the highest cash award among student prizes given out at Singapore universities.

This year's PhD Prize winners studied into a wide range of topics, such as environmentally friendly water treatment systems, high performance biofuel separation and purification, novel solar cells and rechargeable energy storage systems.

Dr Wei Yuting from the NUS Faculty of Engineering, for instance, developed a group of novel multifunctional materials that could be used as an adsorbent and membrane to effectively remove arsenic and boron from water. This novel water treatment system can be operated without additional energy consumption and the used materials can be regenerated and reused. Potential applications include contamination control for natural water bodies and seawater desalination. Due to its low cost and high efficiency, the novel separation materials can potentially be used in developing countries such as China and India where cost effective technologies are very much needed. 

Another PhD student Dr Saravanan Kuppan from the NUS Faculty of Science, developed a novel material called mesoporous Titanium (TiO2), which has excellent energy storage properties when used in lithium-ion batteries (LIB). Such LIBs are promising options for energy storage in electric vehicles and smart grid applications. A US patent has been filed for Dr Saravanan's mesoporous Titanium (TiO2) material and its application in electrochemical devices. In addition, the material was mass produced and a novel Li-ion battery was developed for electric vehicle application in collaboration with E-One Moli, the third largest battery manufacturer in Taiwan.

Singaporean researcher, Dr Aung Ko Ko Kyaw of NTU’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, has found an innovative way to design and fabricate a new type of organic solar cell that is set to improve the current technology. These excitonic solar cells, particularly organic solar cells and dye-sensitized solar cells, cost less than conventional silicon solar cells.   Excitonic solar cells attract a lot of attention in solar cell research because they can be produced from low-temperature and solution-processed roll-to-roll manufacturing technology. This helps to reduce the cost of production and energy pay-back time tremendously. Due to his impactful research on excitonic solar cells, Dr Aung was awarded the A*STAR International Fellowship to pursue post-doctoral research at the University of California, Santa Barbara under the supervision of Nobel laureate Professor Alan Heeger.  Dr Aung intends to further improve the efficiency of the cells before turning it into a commercial venture.

Fellow NTU researcher, Dr Grace Wee from the School of Materials Science and Engineering, has developed a new form of printable and flexible super-capacitors using nanotube-based electrodes.  This new technology will make it possible to provide power solutions to printed electronic devices such as smart cards, RFID tags and e-papers, at low cost. Furthermore, it may also be integrated with energy harnessing devices, such as solar cells, to provide a reliable source of electricity supply for stand-alone power systems and commercial applications.  Printing super-capacitors on flexible materials like plastic will also allow electronics to be placed on curved surfaces, for example, installing solar cells on vehicle roofs, which has not been possible before. Dr Wee, who is passionate about applying research knowledge to improve people’s daily lives, had collaborated with a US start-up company that was also interested in developing super-capacitors, while she was working on this project.

WFF, a Singapore-registered charity organisation devoted to advancing research and development of new environmental technologies, had introduced the PhD Awards in environmental and sustainability research in 2010.

Dr Feng Lun said, “This marks World Future Foundation’s third year in giving out this presitigious annual award. I am delighted to see another group of NUS and NTU high calibre scholars emerge, excelling in their own fields of research. With their knowledge and passion, they have displayed dynamic capabilities to explore sustainable development for the environment constantly. I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to all the winners, and hope more promising students would join us in fulfilling the mission of contributing to the well-being of humankind.”

Mr Lu Bo, Managing Director of WFF said, “The purpose of setting WFF PhD Prize is to encourage winners to continue their research on environment and sustainability, and to better contribute to the welfare of mankind. To achieve this, we are building a database for prize winners, so we can keep in touch with the winners closely, keep abreast on their latest achievements, and also provide various forms of support towards their future academic research. Through a 5-year effort, we hope to develop it to a world class academic prize with international influence.”

NUS Vice Provost (Education) Professor Tan Thiam Soon said, “The PhD Prize is an important platform to inspire young researchers to develop innovative sustainable solutions to address global challenges such as climate change, energy, public health, environment and water. This year, our winners had once again distinguished themselves with their high quality projects where they have demonstrated passion, creativity and innovativeness in developing multi-disciplinary solutions towards solving environmental problems. Our students' achievements serve as a recognition of NUS' strengths as a premier centre for sustainability research.” The five NUS winners were chosen amongst 110 outstanding submissions from PhD candidates.

NTU’s Associate Provost in charge of Graduate Education, Professor Peter Preiser said, “This year, NTU received more than 30 top quality nominations were received from schools in NTU, shortlisted from over 400 candidates, which bears testimony to the growing stature of the PhD Prize.  The selection of the winners has become increasingly challenging, as our graduates have performed extremely well in their research.  So it is indeed a feather in the cap for the winning PhD graduates to receive this prestigious award, and it also speaks to the quality of NTU's sustainability research and excellence of its graduate training. I am sure that all of these young researchers will have a very bright future ahead of them.”

The winners were assessed on several criteria, including the societal and economic relevance of their research (e.g. commercial potential), evidence of novelty (e.g. patents), and a demonstrated passion for environmental and sustainability research. A total of 10 prizes were awarded this year.

Please refer to the Annex below for the full list of winners.

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For media queries, please contact:

Ms Chew Huoy Miin
Senior Manager (Media Relations)
Office of Corporate Relations
National University of Singapore
DID: (65) 6516 6822

Mr Feisal Bin Abdul Rahman
Senior Assistant Director (Media Relations)
Corporate Communications Office
Nanyang Technological University
DID: (65) 6790 6687


About World Future Foundation Ltd (WFF)

World Future Foundation (WFF) was set up by a group of public-spirited entrepreneurs and professionals from the Asia-Pacific region and was incorporated in Singapore on 26 August 2008. WWF was then conferred by the Government of Singapore as a charity on 20 February 2009.

WFF is a grant-making foundation, based in Singapore, for the world. It aims to financially support a number of charitable organisations and charitable programmes related to ecological and environmental protection, city evolution, research and education and so on. These programmes will bring about changes and benefit the contemporary and future generations from different aspects. WFF is a private foundation and does not raise funds from the public. At present, its funds are mainly from the personal donation of public-spirited entrepreneurs.

WFF’s motto “For Our World, For Our Future” reflects its founders’ ambitions and aspirations.

For more information, visit

About National University of Singapore (NUS)

A leading global university centred in Asia, the National University of Singapore (NUS) is Singapore’s flagship university which offers a global approach to education and research, with a focus on Asian perspectives and expertise.
NUS has 16 faculties and schools across three campuses. Its transformative education includes a broad-based curriculum underscored by multi-disciplinary courses and cross-faculty enrichment. Over 36,000 students from 100 countries enrich the community with their diverse social and cultural perspectives.
NUS has three Research Centres of Excellence (RCE) and 22 university-level research institutes and centres. It is also a partner in Singapore’s 5th RCE. NUS shares a close affiliation with 16 national-level research institutes and centres. Research activities are strategic and robust, and NUS is well-known for its research strengths in engineering, life sciences and biomedicine, social sciences and natural sciences. It also strives to create a supportive and innovative environment to promote creative enterprise within its community.  
For more information, please visit

About Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has 33,500 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the colleges of Engineering, Business, Science, and Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences. In 2013, NTU will enrol the first batch of students at its new medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, which is set up jointly with Imperial College London.

NTU is also home to four world-class autonomous institutes – the National Institute of Education, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Earth Observatory of Singapore, and Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering – and various leading research centres such as the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI) and Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N).

A fast-growing university with an international outlook, NTU is putting its global stamp on Five Peaks of Excellence: Sustainable Earth, Future Healthcare, New Media, New Silk Road, and Innovation Asia.

NTU has a satellite campus in Singapore’s science and tech hub, one-north, and is setting up a campus in Novena, Singapore’s medical district. It will also have its first campus in China, the NTU Tianjin College, in 2013.

For more information, please visit  


National University of Singapore:

• Dr Chen Jie, Faculty of Science, "Theoretical investigation on thermal properties of silicon based nanostructures"

• Dr Panu Sukitpaneenit, Faculty of Engineering, "Fundamentals of PVDF hollow fiber membrane formation and pervaporation for ethanol-water separation"

• Dr Saravanan Kuppan, Faculty of Science, "Synthesis of nano-structured materials and their application in lithium ion batteries"

• Dr Wei Yuting, Faculty of Engineering, "Removal of anionic contaminants by environmental-friendly engineered materials"

• Dr Zhang Wei, Faculty of Engineering, "Fabrication of dye sensitized solar cells with enhanced conversion efficiency"

Nanyang Technological University:

• Dr Aung Ko Ko Kyaw, School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, College of Engineering, "Design and fabrication of excitonic solar cells"

• Dr Li Aidan, School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, College of Engineering, "Experimental and theoretical study of cathode catalyst layer in PEM fuel cells"

• Dr Liu Jiehua, School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, College of Science, "Two-dimension nano-architecture for novel catalysts and electrode materials"

• Dr Wee Tsyh Ying Grace, School College of Engineering, "Charge storage and transport mechanism in printable supercapacitors"

• Dr Zhang Wei, School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering, "Photocatalytic systems for visible light driven H2 production from water"


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