Agilent Technologies and Nanyang Technological University Collaborate on Wastewater Treatment Research
19 Dec 2013

Agilent Technologies Inc. and Nanyang Technological University have announced they are collaborating on the development of new solutions for the biological treatment of wastewater. In this collaboration, the Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute (NEWRI), which leads NTU’s efforts in water research, will use Agilent’s bio-analytical instruments to study the impact of microorganisms, or microbes, in wastewater treatment.

Under a memorandum of understanding, Agilent and NTU will work on two initial projects. The first is to develop a real-time monitoring system for wastewater treatment that can provide early warning of any failure or breakdown in the treatment process as well as provide accurate data. The second project is to explore a less energy-intensive water treatment method by exploiting microorganisms for wastewater treatment. The goal is to develop a portable, low-cost analytical kit for use in developing countries.

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 behavior 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, Professor Ng Wun Jern, dean of NTU’s College of Engineering and executive director of NEWRI, said that new technologies in bio-treatment processes have to be developed continuously to address a growing diversity of anthropogenic contaminants, reduce the carbon footprint of wastewater treatment, and better recover energy and other resources.

“Agilent’s advanced bio-analytical techniques will allow us to develop a database of contaminants found in wastewater, including exotic or newly discovered ones and compounds that ironically may be generated during the treatment,” said professor Ng. “This will help us monitor microbial metabolic activity and treatment performance in terms of removing various organic compounds. With the new specialized database, we will be better able to overcome the challenges now facing us in biological wastewater treatment processes.”

Professor Ng is one of the world’s top 30 water scientists, according to Lux Research, a leading global water research institute.

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

Image caption: NTU Professor William Chen, NEWRI Analytical Cluster Leader, and NTU’s NEWRI postgraduate students Jaslyn Lee (centre) as well as Toh Shi Hui (right), with water samples that will be analysed by Agilent’s bio-analytical instrument to identify any chemical pollutants.

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Sarah Thomas
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