The sustainable development of chemical industries is an important and challenging issue in the 21st century. The Department has a programme in Green Chemical Process to develop environmentally benign processes for the production of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and polymers and to increase the sustainability. This programme deals with both "upstream" design and "downstream" treatment and involves chemical syntheses, chemical engineering, biomolecular engineering, and cross-disciplinary interactions. Research activities in this programme focus on the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances, the development of processes that degrade hazardous substances, and the development of alternative green energy.
Research activities in Environmentally Benign Processing & Sustainability include
Bioextraction of Metal Values from Wastes
Conventional treatment of solid and hazardous wastes often involves pollutive processes
(some of which also generate wastes). Bioextractive processes have been applied to the
treatment of several types of wastes including electronic wastes, and spent refinery catalysts.
Such green technologies allow for the safe disposal of toxic wastes with concomitant
recovery of metal values (including precious metals such as gold and nickel).
Proteomics in Biodegradation
Proteomics has been applied to elucidate biodegradation pathways, to monitor
physiological consequences after metabolic engineering, and to improve the understanding
of microbial growth and adaptation to mixed pollutants. In the current focus, proteomics
analysis is used to complement the phenomenological observations and the kinetics
modeling studies in biodegradation involving Pseudomonas putida.
Advanced Membranes for Water Production and Recycle
Given a pressing worldwide water shortage and high oil prices, an urgent need exists for alternative desalination technologies to provide cheap and reliable sources of water for growing population and to meet industrial needs. Alternative membrane-based desalination technologies such as membrance desalination (MD) and forward osmosis (FO), and the development of nanofiltration (NF) membranes for toxic ions removal is our research focus. Breakthroughs have been made at NUS for both MD and FO.
Engineering reactions and processes on the molecular scale
The typical scale for studying catalytic reactions is the molecular scale - a scale which is difficult to access experimentally. Molecular modeling is best placed to study molecular level effects and can help guide our chemical intuition. With this knowledge, more selective and more active catalysts for the (petro)chemical and pharmaceutical industry are developed and molecular devices that may one day replace the transistors in your computer are designed atom by atom.
Environmental Life Cycles Assessment and Sustainability Studies
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is used to evaluate the sustainability of industrial processes including supply chain alternatives, packaging materials, resource reuse and recycling, alternative energies, waste management options and carbon sequestration technologies. Potential impacts are modelled on environmental indicators such as global warming, acidification, eco-toxicity and abiotic resource depletion.