In 1999, scientists discovered a unique bacterium which possesses enzymes, enabling it to convert ammonia into harmless nitrogen gas. This discovery sparked the interest of Professor Mark van Loosdrecht from Delft University of Technology, who embarked on a project to develop tools which would enable scientists to harness the natural properties of the bacteria in the purification of waste water.
The result is Anammox, an energy-saving process which shortens the conventional used water treatment method.
Traditionally, ammonia in waste water needs to be converted into an intermediate nitrate form before it is converted into nitrogen gas. This method is energy-intensive and can take up to 3% of a country’s energy budget.
The application the Annamox technology will greatly reduce the overall energy consumption, chemical usage and carbon emissions of conventional used water treatment plants.
Professor van Loosdrecht’s ground-breaking work won him the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize, which is sponsored by the Singapore Millenium Foundation. The prize, which received 61 nominations this year, honours the outstanding contributions by individuals of organisations in solving water-related problems, or implementing policies and programmes which benefit humanity.