Creativity Prize - 9th Award


The team of Dr. Benjamin S. Hsiao (Stony Brook University, New York, USA) which includes Dr. Priyanka Sharma.

The work of Dr. Benjamin S. Hsiao and his team involves the development and use of next-generation high-flux nanostructured materials, particularly nanocellulose, for energy and water purification applications. They have developed environmentally friendly biomass extraction processes to produce low-cost cellulose nanofibers which can be employed as effective adsorbents, coagulants and membrane materials for energy-efficient industrial water treatments, desalination and heavy metal removal, capable of reaching a performance/price ratio of over 10-100 times better than existing commercial systems. This sustainable technology promises to provide clean water to off-grid communities of the developing world.

Winner Profiles

Dr. Benjamin S. Hsiao

Dr Hsiao is Distinguished Professor; co-founding Director of the Innovative Global Energy Solutions Center; and Director for the Center for Integrated Electric Energy Systems at Stony Brook University.


• 1987 – PhD; University of Connecticut (Materials Science)
• 1984 – MS; University of Connecticut ( Materials Science)
• 1980 – BSc; National Taiwan University (Chemical Engineering)

Selected Awards:

2016 – Invention Ambassador, AAAS-Lemelson Foundation
2015 – Cooperative Research Award (with Andy Tsou), American Chemical Society, Division of Polymeric Materials
2014 – Distinguished Professional Achievement Award, Chinese American Academic and Professional Society (CAAPS)
2013 – Patent of the Year Award, Long Island Technology Hall of Fame
2007-2009 – Special Creativity Award, Division of Materials Research, National Science Foundation
2005 – Licensed Innovation Award, Research Foundation of State University of New York
1998-2001 – DuPont Young Professor Award



Dr. Priyanka Sharma

Dr Sharma is Adjunct Assistant Professor and Research Scientist in the Chemistry Department at Stony Brook University.


• 2014 – PhD; CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory in Pune, India

Selected Awards:

2020 – NAI Young Academic Inventor’s Award, National Academy of Inventors (United States)
2018 – Blavatnik Regional Young Scientist Award, New York Academy of Sciences

Acceptance Speech

benjamin hsiao300x300It is truly a great honor to receive the 9th Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water (PSIPW) in the category of The Creativity Prize.

To start, I would like to thank King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for being the patron of the Awards Ceremony, as well as his representative for attending the event. I greatly appreciate the vision of the founder of this Prize, His Royal Highness Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz, and his son His Royal Highness Prince Khaled Bin Sultan for his continued support for the Prize.

In addition, I would like to extend my warm thanks to the Prize Council and General Secretary for selecting my team as one of the winners for the Creativity Prize. Finally, I would like to thank Mr. David Jalajel for helping me with the logistics of receiving this award.

As we all know, there is a vast amount of underutilized plant biomass sources surrounding us. Feedstock sources, like tree waste, agriculture residues, shrubs and weeds, even recycled papers and boxes, are ideal for extracting new, sustainable, inexpensive and efficient water remediation materials. This Creativity Prize recognizes a novel process to do just that.

My research team at Stony Brook University in the U.S. has developed a simple and environmentally friendly nitro-oxidation process that can extract low-cost nanostructured materials, termed nanocellulose, directly from any raw biomass for water purification. These nanocellulose materials can be used as adsorbents, coagulants and filtration membranes for varying applications, ranging from drinking water purification for off-grid communities to the enabling of more energy-efficient industrial-scale water treatments. In specific, our nitro-oxidation process combines two key steps in the extraction process: pulping (or delignification) and cellulose oxidation, resulting in significant reductions of energy, chemical and water consumptions. Furthermore, the effluent from this environmentally friendly process can be directly converted into plant fertilizers. Notably, we recently discovered that our nitro-oxidation process can also be useful as treatment to activate biochar, thus further enhancing the nexus of water and energy.

I am very proud of my entire research team, led by Dr. Priyanka Sharma, the senior scientist in my group, for their hard work, persistence and innovation. Our team shares a common vision – to help people by providing low cost drinking water. This Prize also reflects their accomplishments and belongs to them.

We are only at the beginning of a long journey towards our full mission. The recognition of the Creativity Prize validates our vision and the pathway we have taken thus far, and highlights the work ahead of us. In specific, this funding will allow us to evaluate the scale-up reaction system of the nitro-oxidation process and to demonstrate this new class of water purification materials. More broadly, we aim to use this technology to help more needy people to access clean water with less cost.

Thank you again!

-- Benjamin Hsiao


priyanka300x300My most heartfelt thanks to King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for being the patron of the award ceremony. I also thank his representative for attending the event.

I salute His Royal Highness Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz for his critical vision for water. It is amazing how he thought to recognize and honor the world-leading scientist of all ages working in the field of water. I also like to thank His Royal Highness Prince Khaled Bin Sultan for his continuous support for the prize.

Apart from this, I would like to thank Dr. A.G. Varma who had introduced me to the field of cellulose chemistry. My heartfelt thanks to Professor Benjamin Hsiao for providing me the platform for enhancing my knowledge in this field and for his guidance in the development of breakthrough research of the nitro-oxidation process. My lab colleagues and students have also played a crucial role throughout this journey. I am also thankful to them.

Of course I cannot forget to thank my parents, my husband, my in-laws for their continuous support and for their day-to-day encouragement for me to pursue my goal in this field. Thanks to my little daughter Isha who has filled our lives with lots of joy, and her presence makes my success magnificent.

-- Priyanka Sharma

Winning Work

[1] PR Sharma, R Joshi, SK Sharma, BS Hsiao, "A Simple Approach to Prepare Carboxycellulose Nanofibers from Untreated Biomass", Biomacromolecules 18(8), 2333-2342, 2017.

[2] PR Sharma, A Chattopadhyay, C Zhan, SK Sharma, L Geng, BS Hsiao, "Lead Removal from Water using Carboxycellulose Nanofibers Prepared by Nitro-Oxidation Method", Cellulose, 25(3), 1961-1973, 2018.

[3] PR Sharma, A Chattopadhyay, SK Sharma, L Geng, N Amiralian, DJ Martin, BS Hsiao, "Nanocellulose from Spinifex as an Effective Adsorbent to Remove Cadmium(II) from Water", ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng., 6(3), 3279–3290, 2018.

[4] P Hadi, M Yang, H Ma, X Huang, H Walker, BS Hsiao, "Biofouling-Resistant Nanocellulose Layer in Hierarchical Polymeric Membranes: Synthesis, Characterization and Performance", Journal of Membrane Science, 579, 162–171, 2019.

[5] PR Sharma, SK Sharma, R Antoine, BS Hsiao, "Efficient Removal of Arsenic Using Zinc Oxide Nanocrystals Decorated Regenerated Microfibrillated Cellulose Scaffolds", ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, 7(6), 6140-6151, 2019.

Back to all 9th Award Winners