News Details | 18-Dec-2013

NTU partners Agilent in wastewater treatment research

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore, one of the world’s fastest rising universities is partnering Agilent Technologies Inc. (Agilent), the world’s premier measurement company to develop new solutions that will improve the biological treatment of wastewater.

The collaboration will allow NTU, ranked No. 2 in the world for water research by Lux Research to expand its ongoing water research. The Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute (NEWRI) at NTU will use Agilent’s bio-analytical instruments to monitor the performance of micro-organisms or microbes throughout the process of wastewater treatment.

Scientists and engineers from NEWRI aim to gain a better understanding of microbes capable of degrading various materials so as to harness them for wastewater and waste treatment. For example, when the behaviour of microbes is better understood, a solution can be found to the problem of microbes interacting and competing with one another which hinders the recovery of energy during wastewater treatment.

On the significance of the collaboration, Dean of NTU’s College of Engineering and Executive Director of NEWRI, Professor Ng Wun Jern said that new technologies in bio-treatment processes have to be developed continuously to address the growing diversity of anthropogenic contaminants, reduce the carbon footprint of wastewater treatment, and to better recover energy and other resources.

“Agilent’s advanced bio-analytical technologies will allow us to develop a database of contaminants found in wastewater including exotic or newly discovered ones and compounds which, ironically, may be generated during treatment. This will help us monitor microbial metabolic activity and their treatment performance in terms of removing various organic compounds. With the new specialised database, we will be better able to overcome the challenges now facing us in biological wastewater treatment processes,” said Prof Ng, named as one of the world’s top 30 water scientists by Lux Research.

This knowledge repository can serve both Singapore and the region in a wide spectrum of environment-related applications covering water, wastewater and wastes. Moving forward, the partnership with Agilent could well expand into other environmental applications including air-borne pollutants, added Prof Ng.

“Agilent has been assisting researchers and developing environmental solutions for more than 40 years and we continue to be committed to help create a better quality of life for all. By working with NEWRI at NTU, one of Asia’s foremost water and environment research institutes, we hope to help develop highly-sensitive and reliable methods for wastewater processing,” said Mr Rod Minett, general manager of Agilent’s Life Sciences Group in South Asia Pacific and Korea region.

This collaboration between NTU and Agilent is expected to further boost Singapore’s growing status as a global hydrohub. According to the Singapore Economic Development Board’s projection, the water sector alone should see its value-added contribution to Singapore’s gross domestic product rise from S$0.5 billion in 2003 to S$1.7 billion in 2015.

In the environmental sector, Agilent instruments should enable scientists to test for biological and chemical components in air, water, plants, animals and soil. The technology leader has developed important techniques to detect environmental contaminants such as perchlorate, an ingredient in rocket fuel, arsenic and mercury found in more than 350 water sources in the United States at parts per trillion levels.

Using such technologically advanced instruments from Agilent, governments can enforce rigorous drinking water standards that protect public health where pesticides in water or pharmaceutical and personal care product residues can be at parts per trillion levels in drinking water.

Two initial projects to be launched

Under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in September 2013, Agilent and NTU have identified several areas of research collaboration, starting with two initial projects. 

The first project aims to develop a real-time monitoring system for wastewater treatment using Agilent’s advanced bio-analytical instruments. This breakthrough system will not have the limitations found in current systems which are unable to carry out real-time monitoring. The new NTU real-time monitoring system will also be able to provide early warnings of failure or breakdown in the wastewater treatment process.

The second project aims to harness microbes for wastewater treatment. The use of microbes in wastewater treatment has been found to be less energy-intensive and environment friendly compared to chemical based processes. NEWRI’s Advanced Environmental Biotechnology Centre will lead this study to use microbes in wastewater treatment plants. One of its goals is to develop a portable low-cost analytical kit to monitor the performance of the microbes in wastewater treatment plants. Such an analytical kit will also be useful for use in developing countries.

Such solutions arising from NTU’s collaboration with Agilent are expected to be adopted by industry players to reach markets beyond Singapore.

NTU’s NEWRI has demonstrated that new technologies it has developed have brought substantial benefits to the region in improving water quality for day-to-day use. For example, NEWRI’s spin-off company, the Membrane Instruments and Technology Pte Ltd (MINT), has its patented flagship product, the Membrane Integrity Sensor System for Reverse Osmosis Systems, now in use in water reclamation and desalination plants.

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Media contact:

Danny Cham      
Manager, Corporate Communications Office  
Nanyang Technological University  
Tel: 6592 3557  

Sui-Ching Low
Press Relations Manager
Agilent Technologies Inc.
Tel: 6215 8975

About Nanyang Technological University

A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has 33,500 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the colleges of Engineering, Business, Science, Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences, and its Interdisciplinary Graduate School. It has a new medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, set up jointly with Imperial College London.

NTU is also home to 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), Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) and the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight (ACI).

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.

Besides the main Yunnan Garden campus, NTU also has a satellite campus in Singapore’s science and tech hub, one-north, and a third campus in Novena, Singapore’s medical district.

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About Agilent Technologies

Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) is the world’s premier measurement company and a technology leader in chemical analysis, life sciences, diagnostics, electronics and communications. The company’s 20,600 employees serve customers in more than 100 countries. Agilent had revenues of $6.8 billion in fiscal 2013. Information about Agilent is available at

On 19 September 2013, Agilent announced plans to separate into two publicly traded companies through a tax-free spinoff of its electronic measurement company. The separation is expected to be completed in early November 2014.

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