NTU Singapore and RGE launch a S$6 million alliance

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image: NTU Singapore and RGE today launched the RGE-NTU Sustainable Textiles Research Center (RGE-NTU SusTex) to accelerate innovation in textile recycling and translate research findings into practical solutions that can be deployed in urban environments like Singapore.
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Credit: RGE

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and Golden Golden Eagle (RGE)a global resource-based manufacturing grouptoday launched the RGE-NTU Sustainable Textile Research Center (RGE-NTU SusTex) to accelerate innovation in textile recycling and translate research results into practical solutions that can be deployed in urban environments like Singapore.

Researchers at the joint S$6 million research center will look into areas such as eco-friendly and sustainable next-generation textiles and the remanufacturing of textile waste into fibres. The goal is to study the chemistry of various textile materials and determine the optimal processes and techniques needed to move us closer to a circular textile economy. This is in line with Singapore’s zero waste vision, as well as Singapore’s Green Plan 2030.

The research center, located at NTU’s School of Materials Science and Engineering, was officially launched today by Ms. Grace Fu, Singaporean Minister for Sustainable Development and Environment.

This comes at a time when around 92 million tonnes of textile waste[1] is created every year in the world. Only 12% of materials used for clothing end up being recycled. The textile industry itself is responsible for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions[2] – more than international flights and shipping combined.

NTU President, Professor Subra Suresh said: “The aim of the RGE-NTU Sustainable Textiles Research Center (RGE-NTU SusTex) is very much aligned with Singapore’s zero waste vision to build a sustainable, resource-efficient and climate-resilient nation. This partnership between NTU and RGE builds on RGE’s industry experience as a global resource-based manufacturing group and leverages NTU’s intellectual assets in materials and environmental chemistry.

EGR Executive Director, Perry Lim, said: “We want to contribute where we can have the most impact. More and more countries are banning the import of waste, including textile waste. However, current textile recycling technologies, which rely on a bleaching and separation process using heavy chemicals, cannot be implemented in urban environments such as Singapore. This is where RGE can help, drawing on its 20 years of experience in viscose fiber manufacturing, to provide funding of S$6 million to establish the research center and fund its work; share our global R&D expertise as the world’s leading producer of viscose; and to potentially scale up viable innovations and solutions across our global operations. Supported by Singapore’s strong research ecosystem and leveraging NTU’s engineering capabilities, we aim to catalyze innovation and develop a city-friendly textile recycling solution, the first of its kind.

NTU Senior Vice President (Research) Professor Lam Khin Yong said, “Collaboration between academia and industry has never been more important to address today’s complex social, environmental and economic challenges. The RGE-NTU SusTex is another example of how the culture of industry collaboration is embedded in NTU’s innovation ecosystem. Such collaborations enable a healthy exchange of ideas and know-how between industry and academia, and help pave the way for the translation of research ideas, maximizing the reach and impact of NTU’s research. for the benefit of society.

Dino Tan, Senior Vice President of Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) said, “The successful launch of RGE-NTU SusTex is a testament to EDB’s efforts to connect our businesses with research institutes in Singapore. We are confident that by combining RGE’s manufacturing expertise with NTU’s research capabilities, the new research center will represent an important step towards achieving Singapore’s sustainable manufacturing goals. We look forward to forging more such partnerships, to support the development of innovative green technologies and solutions that can be scaled up in Singapore and the region.

The Joint Research Center is part of NTU’s ambition and efforts to lessen our impact on the environment under its NTU Strategic Plan 2025and builds on RGE’s sustainability commitment, part of which is exploring how waste can also be used as a resource to generate new materials.

Stimulating high-impact research through interdisciplinary collaboration

The RGE-NTU SusTex leverages the University’s emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration to catalyze high-impact research and move innovative ideas from the lab to the real world. It also draws on RGE’s wealth of industrial experience and strong manufacturing capabilities. EDB seeded the relationship between NTU and RGE when the idea for an urban textile recycling center first germinated last year.

The joint research center will draw on the expertise of NTU scientists from the School of Materials Science and Engineering and the School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering.

It will focus on four areas of research:

  • Cleaner and more energy-efficient recycling methods: investigate greener ways to recycle textiles, with a focus on cellulose-based fabrics including rayon, viscose and cotton, minimizing the degradation of fabric properties and turning textile waste into fibers ;
  • Automated sorting of textile waste: use a combination of advanced spectroscopic techniques and machine learning capabilities to identify and sort textile waste based on fiber composition, and develop an automated system to remove accessories such as zippers and buttons;
  • Ecological discoloration: develop environmentally friendly methods to remove dyes from textile waste using little or no chlorinated chemicals, and formulate greener, biodegradable dye substitutes;
  • New textiles: finding alternative uses for textile by-products and developing a new generation of eco-friendly and smart textiles with attributes such as moisture insensitivity, electrical conductivity and infrared/ultraviolet radiation reflectivity.

Leading the joint research center in these research projects is Professor Hu Xiao from the NTU School of Materials Science and Engineering, who is also the director of the Environmental Chemistry & Materials Center at NTU’s Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute.

Along with the establishment of RGE-NTU SusTex, RGE plans to build a low-carbon, low-chemical, and energy-efficient textile recycling pilot plant in Singapore. The new sustainable textile recycling solutions developed under the RGE-NTU SusTex should be tested in this pilot plant.

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[1] Why clothes are so hard to recycleBBC, July 13, 2020

[2] The impact of textile production and waste on the environmentNews from the European Parliament, 26 April 2022


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