Three 18-year-old Singapores won the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize on Wednesday, 29 August 2012. The USD 5,000 award and a prize sculpture was presented by the Swedish Crown Princess Victoria to them during the World Water Week in Stockholm.
According to a statement released after the award ceremony, the Singaporean students, Luigi Marshall Cham, Nicholas Lim Jun Yong and Carrie-Anne Ng Tian Ting, won the prize for their research on how clay can be used to remove and recover pollutants from waste water.
“This year’s winning project shows the possibility of using a lower cost method to decrease an important water environment problem, which is relevant all over the world,” said the International Jury in its citation.
“The study does not only present an efficient way to remove a toxicant, but also a novel way to recover and reuse materials which would otherwise be discarded as waste.”
The jury was deeply impressed by the winning team’s comprehension of the complex challenges demonstrated both in the laboratory and in their analysis of their innovation prospects to be scaled up for industrial use.
“We didn’t expect it. We are very happy. When we return home we will propose our idea to the Public Utility Board of Singapore (PUB) and hopefully they will implement it,” the three students excitedly said after receiving the prize.
The students had been studying compounds called non-ionic surfactants which are soap-like additives used in industries, as well as household detergents and cosmetic products. They are common pollutants to waste-water that are hard to remove and current techniques used to treat them produce hazardous sludge which is difficult to dispose of.
Cham, Lim and Ng have developed a method where bentonite clay is used to remove and recover the pollutants from the water without generating any waste products. The clay is able to absorb up to 100 percent of the non-ionic surfactants and can then be flushed clean with alcohol, allowing the compounds to be reused.
They won the prize out of teams from 27 other countries who participated in the 2012 finals.
The Stockholm Junior Water Prize was first awarded in 1997 and is open to all students between the age of 15 and 20 who have conducted a water related project.