New waste water separation system 

Development of a membrane-adsorption combination for the separation of anthropogenic trace elements


Under the Austrian project “Pharmaqua”, scientists are combining forces to achieve a technological leap forward in the separation of anthropogenic traces from waste water streams.

On the 23 January 2017, the start-up event for Austrian Pharmaqua project was held at the Institute for Water Quality, Resource Management and Waste Management at the Vienna University of Technology. The research project will extend over one and a half years and is funded with some 200,000 EUR by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management. It is carried out by Kommunalkredit Public Consulting GmbH, as part of the Austrian program for “PROMOTION OF RESEARCH IN THE WATER INDUSTRY” and brings together five Partners to develop an innovative, efficient and cost-effective waste water separation system for anthropogenic trace elements.

Anthropogenic trace elements are organic impurities which can interfere with the course of basic biochemical processes in nature even in low concentrations. They are the cause of the rise in a number of diseases and the increase in infertility in animals, especially in fish, which is always a heated topic of discussion amongst professionals. Current municipal waste water treatment plants are designed for the removal of nutrients, degradable organic compounds and solids. Those waste water treatment plants that are currently fitted out to state of the art standards, are also good at eliminating certain micro-impurities. However, a large number of these potentially harmful substances are not biologically degraded or adsorbed and are therefore released to the environment. In contrast, a broad spectrum of micro-pollutants can be virtually fully retained using the planned combination of membrane separation and adsorption.

Under the project management of SPIN Tec GmbH, extensive research and development work is being carried out by the project partners: Mach & Partner ZT-GmbH, the TU Wien – Institute of Chemical, Environmental & Biological Engineering and Institute for Water Quality, Resource and Waste Management, and the MCI Management Center – Environmental, Process and Energy Engineering department.

The aim of the current project is to develop a laboratory prototype to test out a novel method for removing organic trace elements through the process combination of membrane separation with an adsorption stage. This should realise both the separation to a large extent of anthropogenic trace elements from biologically purified waste water and a simple and cost-effective process for comprehensive waste water treatment.

The project is supported by funds from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management.


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