Environmental Engineering. Foto: André Künzelmann/UFZ

Department of Environmental Engineering

A great variety of chemicals have been, are and will be produced and consumed in large quantities. Unavoidably, they also enter our environment. How can we prevent or at least minimise the unwanted release of chemicals? Chemicals that have entered the environmental compartments of air, water or soil can only be retrieved or destroyed with a huge effort, or not at all in many cases. Technical options must therefore focus on the source: they must clean exhaust and sewage streams and in the worst case also repair local environmental damage. Chemists, biologists and engineers require a toolbox of methods optimally adapted to the chemicals and the materials to be treated.

Environmental pollutants often occur in large mass fluxes (such as municipal sewage), in high dilutions and in very diverse compositions; they can be difficult to reach with technical means (contaminated aquifers are one example). To respond efficiently to these challenges it is necessary to improve state-of-the-art technologies and adapt them to new problems (e.g. highly recalcitrant chemicals such as perfluoro compounds and micropollutants). However, the consumption of resources is always implicit in the use of technical measures – this needs to be minimised.

Research within the Department of Environmental Engineering (TUCHEM) is ‘idea-driven’ and ‘problem-driven’ at the same time, with a focus on the gain of fundamental knowledge as well as on solving practical problems. As well as scientific publications, output from the Department ranges from the generation of novel environmental reagents (such as the carbon-iron nanocomposite) to methods and technological approaches which are protected by patents and utility samples. Close co-operation with industry and other stakeholders (such as the RWTec network) is indispensable for translating these products into practice. In the focus of our current research are chemical methods and technologies for the removal of chemicals from water by sorption, oxidation, reduction and hydrolysis; they are often coupled with the tools of heterogeneous catalysis. We have special expertise in nanotechnology and the application of cold plasmas. A further strong point of the Department is its worldwide leading role in the exploitation of radio-wave technology for environmental and process engineering.

Our goal is the development of selective and energy-efficient physical-chemical methods for eliminating pollutants from mass fluxes and environmental compartments, as well as the provision of scientific support for the transfer of these methods into practice, while leaving the smallest possible footprint in the environment.