Sabine Sané, a doctoral student in the Department of Microsystems Engineering (IMTEK) at the University of Freiburg, has developed a concept that shows how micropollutants can be degraded in wastewater and how the latter can serve as a valuable source of raw materials. She is one of four researchers who have been awarded the 2014 Huber Technology Prize “Future Water” with a purse of 10,000 euros. Her concept is based on an enzyme that is secreted by the turkey tail fungus Trametes versicolor. This enzyme, known as laccase, has been shown to efficiently degrade pollutants and increase the performance of biofuel cells.
Reducing energy consumption by 8,000 kWh and being able to generate 15,000 kWh of electrical power per day can save 500,000 euros operating costs in a year, as a project carried out by WEHRLE Umwelt GmbH on behalf of a pharmaceutical company found. WEHRLE Umwelt has been working with environmental technologies for over 30 years, principally focussing on plants for industrial wastewater treatment. The company offers intelligent solutions that are far removed from conventional wastewater treatment plants.
Sewage sludge, wastewater and liquid manure are valuable sources of fertilizer for food production. Fraunhofer researchers have now developed a chemical-free, eco-friendly process that enables the recovered salts to be converted directly into organic food for crop plants.
Researchers worldwide are working to develop new technologies for producing clean energy. A team of researchers led by Sven Kerzenmacher at the University of Freiburg's Department of Microsystems Engineering (IMTEK) is interested in combining wastewater and bacteria, an approach that is both unusual and promising.
Technologies that can help identify pollutants in the wastewater treated in sewage plants are urgently needed. LimCo International GmbH might have a solution. The Konstanz-based company has developed a fully-automated early warning system for monitoring the quality of water and sediment in sewage plants and waterworks.
The chemical industry, companies that build engines, hospitals and printing shops – they all discharge exhaust air and wastewater containing compounds that have a detrimental effect on the environment and/or human health. Researchers at the University of Stuttgart are investigating ways to counteract specific waste problems, including biological methods.
In Germany, around 1,500 tonnes of antibiotics per year are administered to humans and animals. As a result, more and more bacteria are developing resistance to common antibiotics. As part of HyReKA, a cooperative project funded by the BMBF, scientists led by Professor Thomas Schwartz from the KIT are investigating how antibiotic-resistant pathogens spread and how they can be prevented from doing so.
Modern agriculture relies on phosphorus in the form of chemical fertilisers to provide plants with vital nutrients. However, huge amounts of this valuable raw material end up in our sewage plants. Two new methods to recover phosphorus from wastewater could potentially contribute to the sustainable use of phosphorus in the not-too-distant future.
Phosphorus is essential for life on Earth all organisms need the element for growth. The principal application of phosphorus is in fertilisers. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB are currently developing a method to recover organic phosphorus from fermentation residues and agricultural residues such as manure. The IGB researchers hope to recover up to 90 percent of the organically bound phosphate.
In view of the changing climate and the finiteness of fossil resources, research into renewable energies is gaining in importance. One of the things that researchers have been looking into for quite some time is different possibilities to use organic wastewater compounds as sustainable energy sources. Carsten Meyer from the University of Stuttgart works on the generation of alternative energy sources. Together with his team of researchers, Meyer was involved in a recently finished project that looked into the biological production of hydrogen from wastewater and sewage sludge.
The German city of Stuttgart purifies 27 million litres of wastewater every hour thus eliminating up to 95 per cent of the organic compounds. Scientists are now trying to find ways to use wastewater treatment plants for purposes other than the purification of wastewater. Besides making the purification of water more effective and complete the scientists are investigating whether fertilisers and hydrogen can be produced during the reclamation process.
Accidental oil spills such as those following oil disasters need to be cleaned up as quickly as possible. Researchers from the KIT in Karlsruhe have now developed an environmentally friendly process that can eliminate oil spills effectively. Nanofur is a material that imitates the fine hairs of aquatic ferns and is capable of absorbing large amounts of oil within a relatively short time.
Some time ago, thanks to BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg, the biotechnology company Novis GmbH met Prof. Dr. Andreas Kappler, a renowned geomicrobiologist at the University of Tübingen.The two partners went on to test bioleaching methods for their ability to recover metals from slag using bacteria. In an interview with Dr. Thomas Helle, CEO of Novis GmbH, Dr. Ursula Göttert, on behalf of BIOPRO, asked what has become of the project.
New studies reveal that rivers are major contributors to marine ecosystem pollution. A study commissioned by environmental authorities in BW and four other German states analysed samples from 25 rivers to gain an idea of the occurrence of microplastics in German inland waters. In addition, Dr. Natalie Orlowski from the University of Freiburg is analysing microplastics pollution in the Dreisam River.
BioLog GmbH, based in Landsberg, is developing bioplastics from chitin, a natural biopolymer extracted from the exoskeleton of crustaceans such as shrimps and crabs. Chitin is modified to chitosan, which can be used for many applications, including for wastewater treatment and as animal feed.
All steam ahead for international research cooperation at the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences: The “BioNexGen” project brings together eleven partners from Europe and the MENA countries (Middle East and North Africa) with the objective of developing membranes with new nanostructured functional layers for the treatment of wastewater. The consortium is led by Prof. Dr. Jan Hoinkis, Director of the Institute of Applied Research at the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences, and funded by the European Union with a total of 3.4 million euros for a period of 42 months.
For bacteria, the environment is rather like a big market where they can give and receive new survival strategies if need be. A group of researchers led by Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Grohmann at the Freiburg University Medical Centre is investigating how microorganisms exchange antibiotic resistance genes. In a project involving two hospitals in Mexico City, the molecular biologists are also investigating whether pathogens, resistance genes and antibiotic residues enter the wastewater system and become part of the agricultural water cycle where they can potentially become a serious threat to human health.
The chemical element phosphorus, which is mainly used as a fertiliser in agriculture, is a key building block for all life forms. Phosphorus cannot be substituted by other elements or produced synthetically. In addition, it is scarce on Earth and the majority of phosphate rock preserves are located in just a handful of countries. A European-wide research project on phosphorus recycling now presents ways of producing the precious raw material from sewage sludge and wastewater.