Water treatment technologies have the objective to safely discharge municipal and industrial wastewater to surface water, and to reduce the risks associated with polluted surface and groundwater.
Directly related challenges are fresh water scarcity, a lack of nutrients (e.g. the phosphorus crisis), climate change, degradation and erosion of soils and the necessity for a more bio-based economy to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.
This explains why wastewater is more and more considered as a valuable resource for reusable water, energy, chemicals, nutrients and complex organic matter. To make this possible, domestic and industrial water loops will be further closed, become interconnected, and new treatment technologies and concepts (together with the USE group) need to be developed that combine treatment and recovery of these resources.
Micropollutants and pathogens
In closed water loops, environmental and health related risks by the accumulation of recalcitrant, toxic organic micropollutants (e.g. medicines, hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, POPs, consumer product chemicals, and industrial chemicals), pathogens and antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) should be avoided.
Biological technologies are studied, possibly combined with physical-chemical technologies, to remove micro-pollutants, pathogens and antibiotic resistance genes from wastewater, surface water and
groundwater to make water fit for applications such as irrigation water,
industrial process water, (secondary) household water, and as a source for
drinking water production.
Historically polluted sites
Historical groundwater, soil and sediment pollution is in Western Europe still present at larger and complex urban and industrial pollution situations. For these we co-develop with municipalities and industrial site owners, nature based solutions where natural attenuation processes (bioconversion, sorption) are combined with other applications such as green infrastructure groundwater cleaning, Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage, and sediment recovery, cleaning and reuse.
Salt, Polymers and Colloids
Saline water provides an immense source for fresh process water and drinking water. Innovative electrochemical techniques including capacitive de-ionisation, electro-dialysis and combinations of these are studied to reduce costs and energy demand for fresh water production and for selective removal and recovery of salts and ionic species from wastewater and natural waters. Polymers and mineral colloidal particles hamper
desalination or electrochemical technologies, especially in industrial
(salt)water applications, such as oil/gas and thermal energy produced water, process water in the food and beverage industry, or drinking water productions from DOC rich groundwater. Polymer removal is therefore studied in our program. The recovery of waste water organics as methane or bio-flocculants, via (an)aerobic sludge or biofilm based reactor technology, are studied together with the Biorecovery team.