Layers of plastic much thinner than a strand of hair are of enormous interest to scientists and engineers. A team of researchers led by Prof. Stefan Mecking from Constance University has now developed a new method to produce wafer-thin layers.
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.
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.
Chemical model systems can be used to study the processes of plant photosynthesis with the goal of tapping sunlight as a source for covering the energy needs of the future. Researchers from Ulm have now developed an artificial leaf based on a manganese-vanadium oxide catalyst which can effectively carry out the critical photocatalytic reaction of splitting water molecules into hydrogen ions and molecular oxygen.
Although drinking water is monitored more strictly than almost anything, our water supply network is still not immune to accidents, wear and tear or targeted attacks. A one-minute warning system for toxins and other substances in water hazardous to health could set off alarms in future if there is a danger.
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.
In the long run, biopolymers will find their way into industry and everyday life; they are the polymers of the future. The Institute for Sanitary Engineering, Water Quality and Solid Waste Management at the University of Stuttgart offers applications of biopolymers for the preparation of water as well as a new recycling strategy.
Can animals survive the harsh conditions of outer space for example extreme cold vacuum ionising and cosmic radiation? This was the question the FOTON-M3 mission sought to answer in September 2007. Now the findings were published.
When an oil spill occurs, chemical dispersants are routinely applied to the surface of the oil-contaminated seawater or into deeper water regions. Dr. Sara Kleindienst, a molecular ecologist from the Centre for Applied Geoscience at the University of Tübingen, has now shown that chemical dispersants do not stimulate oil biodegradation. In cooperation with an international team of researchers, Kleindienst simulated the Deepwater Horizon oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico and obtained unexpected results on the degradation of harmful substances following oil spills.
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.
Biologist Dr. Elisabeth Groß is investigating the complicated defence mechanisms of a water plant water milfoil. The plant uses these defence mechanisms to save its skin from herbivore attacks and to make life difficult for competing algae.
LimCo International has developed the Multispecies Freshwater Biomonitor a unique continuous early warning system that enables the fully automated detection of water contamination. The companys GamTox toxicity test can be used to assess the ecological situation of flowing waters.
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.
Outdoor lovers and athletes love them: water-repellent jackets and trousers. However, many consumers are unaware that the chemicals used to functionalise the textile surface often pollute the environment. Organic fluorine compounds (perfluorocarbons = PFC) are usually added to textiles to make them water-repellent. Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB and the Hohenstein Group are researching an environmentally friendly and sustainable method for making textiles water-repellent.
Lehner GmbH Sensor-Systeme has developed a completely new system for monitoring plants. Electrodes attached directly to a plant can detect and report water shortages or pest infestation early on, thus optimizing pesticide use and avoiding unnecessary watering. Lehner GmbH Sensor-Systeme, a medium-sized company from Kirchheim unter Teck, scored a victory with this innovation in the 2011 CyberOne business plan competition.
Moisture and warmth create the ideal living conditions for a wide range ofmicro-organisms which can pose a risk to human health. Now, a new quick testing kit for bacteria means that the microbiological contamination of water or other surfaces can be measured directly in situ, with no need for expensive and time-consuming laboratory tests.
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.
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.
Researchers from the University of Freiburg have just shown that plant embryo decide already at the two-cell stage which cells will later become the shoot and which the roots. Experiments suggest this might be affected by the distribution of auxin.
David Schleheck biologist at the University of Konstanz focuses on the bacterial degradation of surfactants and LAS in particular. The results of his research are of huge importance for the recycling of grey water in areas including home sewage treatment systems for example.
Using renewable and recycled raw materials, minimising the use of water and energy during construction works and subsequent operation of a building, conserving resources and protecting the environment while maintaining biodiversity are all important components of sustainable building construction.
Dr. Wolfgang Fiedler head of the Radolfzell ornithological station was practically born into his profession. Born on the Mettnau peninsula which is close to the station Fiedler spent hours and hours watching birds as a child. Later when he was at school he worked as a volunteer in the ornithological station.
An inconspicuous plant could soon embark on a career as a climate saver hairs on the surface of water ferns are to allow ships to have a 10 per cent decrease in fuel consumption. The plant has the rare ability to put on a gauzy skirt of air under water and keep this dress on for months. Researchers at the University of Bonn Rostock and Karlsruhe have now discovered how the fern does this.