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Separation Technologies Applied Research and Translation Centre

The Separation Technologies Applied Research and Translation (START) Centre is Singapore’s National Facility, which was launched in June 2016, for the scale-up, testing and commercialization of promising early-stage inventions in the domain of separations, especially membranes. We work closely with Singapore’s Institutes of Higher Learning and various industrial partners to achieve this goal. It is equipped with state-of-the-art industrial scale equipment, including membrane fabrication, module construction and large-scale testing facilities.

Choosing the appropriate technologies for scale-up is key to the success of translation and commercialization activities. The centre, which is staffed with several industry experts, starts by doing a rigorous techno-commercial analysis of down-selected inventions, to optimize chances for success. If the analysis is positive, the process begins with scale-up of the membranes (hollow-fibre or flat-sheet), followed by module design, fabrication and testing at increasing sizes. This is followed by system design, integration, and piloting at scale under real-life conditions. Throughout this process, we work closely with potential industrial partners.

Typically, small stage membrane materials are made with high grade lab chemicals and a very controlled process. In order to fabricate the same technology on an economically viable large scale, we need to shift to industrial grade chemicals and manufacturing equipment. This requires significant process development and optimization. Once we have a stable membrane process, the next step is replicating the membrane performance in the lab, at the modular stage. We do this through a gradual scale-up to 2 inch, 4 inch and 8 inch modules, while retaining key membrane and module properties such as rejection and flux.

Some of the projects we have worked on, include nano-filtration membranes for low pressure water softening applications, multi-bore membranes for membrane distillation, Pressure Retarded Osmosis for energy optimization in desalination, as well as modular and skid design. In addition, START Centre has collaborated with various industry players on application and pilot testing of these technologies.

8-inch Element Testing Skid SWRO.jpg
8-inch Element Testing Skid (SWRO)

Hollow Fiber Membrane Fabrication Lab.jpg

Hollow Fiber Membrane Fabrication Lab