lemonade

Singapore researchers turn water into 'virtual lemonade'

SINGAPORE: It looks like lemonade, tastes like lemonade, but it is simply water.

Researchers in Singapore say they have invented a “virtual lemonade”, using electrodes to mimic the flavour of the beverage and LED lights to imitate its colour, that could one day allow people to digitally share drinks over the Internet.

“We are primarily motivated by the fact that our current digital interactions are not supportive for sharing beverages and food, which is something very common in our everyday lives,” said Nimesha Ranasinghe, who led the team that did the research.

The team conducting the research at the NUS-Keio CUTE Center, a collaboration between the National University of Singapore and Japan’s Keio University, decided to focus on the sour taste of lemonade to prove their idea.

A sensor dipped into a glass of real lemonade collects data on its acidity and colour, which is transmitted via Bluetooth to silver electrode strips on the rim of a tumbler.

The action of a drinker running their tongue over the strip in taking a sip causes the electrodes to simulate the sour taste, while a light-emitting diode (LED) flashes yellow.

The technology can also simulate bitter and salty sensations, Ranasinghe said, adding that it could help people on restricted diets who need to cut back on salt or calories.

“We can even help the people who want to cut down their calorie intake,” she added. “If he craves lemonade, and can have a virtual lemonade, he can get the same experience, but zero calories.”

Still, the design needs some improvement, said student Genevieve Low, a volunteer who participated in tests of the drink.

“I think it’s definitely the way the tongue touches the cup, because no one would, sub-consciously or consciously, put their tongue onto the electrode and then drink the water,” she said in a recent test round.

Another volunteer student, Wang Pan, was surprised by the taste.

“I was imagining the electronic taste, but it’s actually quite real to me because it’s really mild, like mild-sweet. It’s less sour than the real lemonade,” she said. 

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singapore-skyline-4

Singapore to pump additional S$200m into water industry over next 5 years

SINGAPORE: The Republic will pump an additional S$ 200 million into the water industry over the next five years, announced Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Lee Kuan Yew Prize award ceremony on Monday evening (Jul 11).

The new tranche of funding will be channelled into three key areas – research, commercialisation and export of technology, and talent development.

With the new funding, national water agency PUB hopes that the sector can provide a total of 15,000 jobs and add about S$ 2.8 billion to the economy by 2020. It is also looking to fund research projects that explore industrial water solutions, smart water systems and integration. 

Mr Lee said one of the reasons the Republic has had an adequate supply of water in Singapore is because of its investments in recycling. He noted that with investments in research and development (R&D) and water treatment plants, Singapore has reached a point where recycled used water comprises 30 per cent of the nation’s water supply.

Mr Lee added that Singapore will continue to spend more on R&D.

He said: “We’ve already spent I think more than S$ 600 million over the years developing membranes, techniques, processes to make recycled water. And for our next R&D programme over the next five years, we’re going to spend another S$ 200 million. We also have put a lot of effort into closing the water cycle.”

Meanwhile, PUB’s chief engineering and technology officer, Mr Harry Seah, said: “If you look 50 years down the road, you’ll find that most of the water will be used by industries. It’s very important for us to develop this industrial water solution so that we encourage or get the industries to recycle the water.”

According to Mr Seah, as the automation and smart water system gets more complex, the operation has to be safer and easier to maintain. “Integration is important because Singapore is a very small place,” he said.

“Through integration, where we try to integrate our Deep Tunnel Sewage System Phase 2, we integrate the refuse incineration plant so we see the synergies between the two, so that in the end as a total system, we achieve lower carbon footprint, which means we use less power and waste footprint,” he added.

Singapore’s investment in the water sector has seen significant results. The Government ploughed in S$ 470 million from 2006 to 2015. During this period, the sector added 14,000 jobs and S$ 2.2 billion to the economy, exceeding targets set of 11,000 jobs and S$ 1.7 billion in value-add to the economy.

Said Economic Development Board’s executive director of cleantech, Mr Goh Chee Kiong: “We view the water industry as one of the very few industry clusters in Singapore where we have a truly global leadership position in.

“By setting aside an additional S$ 200 million, we hope that we can translate more research ideas into commercialisable products and services and translate to real economic growth for both Singaporean companies as well as international companies.”

While smaller companies may face challenges in going international due to issues like a shortage of talent, IE Singapore said they can still gain a foothold in high-growth areas.

“Industrial wastewater is also another very critical segment,” said Mr Kow Juan Tiang, group director of environment and infrastructure solutions at IE Singapore. “Industrial wastewater is about certain factories coming together, so the size of the projects is smaller. This enables many Singapore companies which are smaller in size to participate in this particular area.”

At the ceremony on Monday, the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize was presented to the city of Medellin – the second-largest city in Colombia – while the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize was presented to Professor John Anthony Cherry, a renowned hydrogeologist.

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