NWO Grant for novel technology for filtering organic micro-pollutants

September 10, 2019

In a collaboration of University Twente, Wageningen University & Research, Saxion, KWR, STOWA, NX Filtration, Nijhuis Water, Oasen, and four water boards, researchers will develop a new technology to filter organic micro-pollutants from water. Their project was honoured with a financial contribution from NWO-TTW grand.

Effects of medicinal waste

There is a growing awareness and concern about the presence of so-called organic micro-pollutants (OMPs) in our surface water. OMPs are small, organic molecules, stemming from medicinal or industrial origin. In 2017, the Dutch newspaper Tubantia already published an article about male fish in Dutch waters producing egg cells under influence of remnants of birth control pills.

Often, when we take medication, we don’t realize that most of the molecules will leave our bodies in our urine. Those small, organic molecules are examples of OMPs. Via the sewer, the chemicals go to the wastewater treatment plants, which are not designed to remove the small molecules. In the end, the remnants end up in our environment.

New membrane

The University of Twente will develop a new technology to filter the OMPs from water in collaboration with the chair group Environmental Technology from Wageningen University & Research, four water boards, three companies, two water knowledge centres and the university of applied sciences Saxion. The basis for this technology is a new and unique membrane, developed by the Twente Membrane Science and Technology cluster, that is able to remove OMPs efficiently. Desired molecules, such as salts, can pass through.

A new water treatment process is designed based on this new membrane. In this new process, the OMPs will be filtered from the water after the regular water treatment and immediately biodegraded. If the new process is successful, it will lead to a new efficient technology that is able to almost completely remove OMPs from our wastewater.

Financial support

The project will receive a one million euro fund from NWO, which will be supplemented with funds from the three companies, the water boards Rijn en IJssel, Vechtstromen, Aa en Maas, and Vallei en Veluwe. The water boards will be involved in a pilot programme where a first design will be tested in practice.