GreenTec Award for Wasser 3.0

Drinking water is a valuable resource. Among the 70,000+ known water-polluting substances, pharmaceuticals are an essential issue since they can hardly ever be drained from sewage. This is where the project Wasser 3.0 of the University of Koblenz and Landau comes in. A gel of hybrid pebble, especially developed for this purpose, is able to absorb large amounts of pharmaceutical residues and chemically transform and bind the waste. For this innovation, Landau University was awarded with the coveted GreenTec Award in the category Water & Sewage on April 30, 2015, at Veolia Germany in Berlin.
water faucet
Water is the most important resource worldwide. Pharmaceutical substances and decomposition products exuded by the human body represent an increasingly severe problem when entering the water circulation via sewage. Up to now, 120 different substances and decomposition products have been detected in the clarification plants; but this number is rising constantly. The issue is aggravated when already expired drugs are disposed of in the toilet and therefore reach the sewage. The community clarification plants are only capable of retaining a small part of those substances. Moreover, the plants are currently neither designed for the substances’ decomposition nor to retain them, which is why those so-called anthropogenic trace substances reach the waters when poured out of the clarification plant. New concepts which remove those substances and clean the water are urgently needed.

Wasser 3.0 was initiated as a research project at the University of Koblenz and Landau and offers new, innovative and efficient solutions from the field of materials sciences. In order to purify the water, special gels of hybrid pebble have been developed, which are able to absorb large amounts of pharmaceuticals as well as their residues, and transform and bind them chemically without any technically demanding measures. During the whole process, the conditions of the Life Cycle Assessment are ensured without producing any toxic products. A big challenge during the production of the hybrid pebble gel is its modification, so the gel filters only particular compounds and leaves the natural minerals in the water.

Junior professor Dr Katrin Schuhen researched on Wasser 3.0 together with her team at the University of Koblenz and Landau. abcr GmbH, expert on silicon-organic chemistry, has supported the project from the very beginning. This collaboration also shows the successful story of a goal-oriented and practical research cooperation between two innovatively thinking partners, uniting science and the economy.

Dr Schuhen is very happy about the distinction and says, “Being awarded with the GreenTec Award is a marvelous honour and also an even bigger incentive to make Wasser 3.0 available for all fields of application as quickly as possible. I would like to thank the jury of the GreenTec Awards 2015 very much for recognizing the potential our project holds.”

The DWA – German Association For Water, Wastewater and Waste acts as guardian of the category Water & Sewage. DWA’s president and jury member Otto Schaaf states, “Water is a unique resource, without water there would be no life and water is not substitutable. A working water cycle is essential to an intact environment. By removing harmful substances or drug remains from the raw water of the drinking water supply or the already biologically cleaned sewage, the awarded project acts on this maxim in an extraordinary manner. ‘Wasser 3.0 – Stressfix’ introduces a new product and new ways of production that help reaching the mentioned goal. The idea and research on the topic are very promising.”

Photo credit: Jeremy Kunz, flickr/Creative Commons

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