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News Details | 23-Jun-2009

NTU young technopreneur scientist in water technology wins inaugural Don Quixote Fund Award


The developer of novel membrane instrumentation and optimisation technology, Dr Adrian Yeo Piah Song from Nanyang Technological University (NTU), is the first recipient of the Don Quixote Fund Award 2009. The Don Quixote Fund was set up last year by the first winner of the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize, Dr Andrew Benedek.

The Fund provides start-up venture capital to enable graduate students and early career scientists to develop high risk innovative technology ideas that have the potential to dramatically impact the water sector in the future, but who may not have access to funding by other sources. In the future the Fund will be administered by the International Water Association

The US$100,000 award will help Dr Yeo’s company, Membrane Instruments and Technology Pte. Ltd. (MINT), a spin-off from NTU, to improve the design and operation of membrane processes. Using the award as seed money, MINT will begin commercialisation of Dr Yeo’s novel invention, the Membrane Integrity Sensor.

“MINT’s flagship product, the Membrane Integrity Sensor, is a device that provides real time information on the state of membranes used in the water purification process. It is more sensitive than any other instruments currently available. It has successfully undergone pilot plant testing and the prize money will be used to "productise" the integrity sensor for installation into large scale water treatment plants,” said Dr Yeo, elaborating on his invention.

Dr Yeo, 32, has previously invented a simple hand-pumped membrane based water filter that played an important part in easing the shortage of drinking water for many victims of the December 2004 tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia. A testimony of his ingenuity and enterprising spirit, he personally delivered some 8,000 litres of drinking water in Aceh and trained locals to operate his water filtration system.

A Research Fellow at the Singapore Membrane Technology Centre (SMTC) – an affiliated member of NTU’s Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI) Ecosystem, Dr Yeo said that his biggest dream is the development of an automated control system which receives signals from the various specialised sensors, predicts the performance of the plant, and implements the correct control strategies.

“MINT's aim is thus the commodisation of membrane optimisation knowledge by developing specialised sensors, mathematical models and automated controls for membrane based water and wastewater treatment plants,” said Dr Yeo. “Despite rapid growth in the membrane based water and wastewater treatment systems, the industry has limited access to efficient sensors and monitors. Our company aims to become a global leader in membrane instrumentation and optimisation technology.”

Regarding the role played in his success by NTU’s NEWRI ecosystem, which consists of different centres in the various areas of environment and water technology expertise, Dr Yeo said that as a company specialising in membrane technology, SMTC is the lead agency in engaging MINT.

“The NEWRI ecosystem provides the ideal environment where experts of different fields come together to develop new ideas. This mixing pot of ideas coupled with the open nature of collaboration within NEWRI provides a wonderful platform for a company like MINT to ride on to develop its technology for commercial use,” said Dr Yeo.

The SMTC will provide the overall co-ordination and product development for the project, while the DHI Centre provides its modelling expertise. IESE’s (Institute of Environmental Science & Engineering) strong industrial links and commercialisation know-how will be critical to MINT's future growth. As the spin-off of the NEWRI ecosystem, MINT is expected to be the first of many companies which benefit from NTU's leadership in water technology.

Dr Benedek will be announcing Dr Yeo as the winner of the Don Quixote Fund 2009 at the Singapore International Water Week, on 23 June 2009, 4.00pm, at the Gallery East, Suntec Convention Centre.

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Media contact:
Hisham Hambari
Assistant Director, Corporate Communications Office
Nanyang Technological University
Tel: 6790 6447; Email: mhisham@ntu.edu.sg

About Nanyang Technological University

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