July 2020

Aufrüstset Photo UFZ Bioelectrosyntheses can make a significant contribution to future bioeconomy. The patented upgrade kit allows expanding conventional bioreactors, enabling their use for microbial bioelectrosynthesis - according to the motto: from a do-it-yourself construction towards reproducible research conditions [1].

Bioelectrosyntheses as essential building blocks of a successful bioeconomy

Electrobiotechnology already covers a broad spectrum of possible applications, ranging from bio fuel cells for the purification of wastewater to biosensors, the removal of pollutants from water or soil and the synthesis of complex chemicals. CO2 can be used as a raw material in bioelectrosyntheses and help to achieve the goals of the "National Research Strategy BioEconomy 2030". However, research to date is still in an early stage with regard to the technology used [2].

With the upgrade kit, existing bioreactors, associated control systems and peripherals can be used, such that standard bioreactors can be converted into bioreactors for bioelectrosynthesis if required. This conversion step is reversible, i.e. expensive double purchases are unnecessary. Furthermore, this system allows - in contrast to other approaches - processes to be systematically scaled.

What we offer

We are looking for an industrial partner (preferably manufacturers of bioreactors or electrochemical reaction technology) to develop existing prototypes further as well as for production and distribution of the upgrade kit for bioreactors for bioelectrosynthesis.

Based on today's promising research results, the UFZ and its partners want to develop a technology of tomorrow in order to make a significant contribution to securing raw materials, sustainability and climate protection. Become part of the team!

[1] Patents: WO2015/082490 and EP18701701

[2] DECHEMA position paper (in German)  

Further information: Prof. Dr. Falk Harnisch ( ), Department of Analytical Environmental Microbiology

July 2020

June 2020

Patenturkunde Germany wants to secure its global leading role in hydrogen technologies and has just published a National Hydrogen Strategy. Hydrogen will thus play a central role in the further development and completion of the German energy transition. This means that renewable energies will be used to significantly reduce CO2 emissions, especially in industry and transport. The use of solar energy for the chemical or biological production of hydrogen is an attractive and environmentally friendly technological goal that has been pursued at the UFZ for several years in the Department of Solar Materials.

State of the art

Photocatalytic water splitting - the splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen using sunlight - is an important alternative to electrolytic water splitting which requires a lot of energy. In this process, algae or cyanobacteria are usually used, which under certain conditions can release hydrogen into the environment during the metabolic process. In algae reactors, for example, sunlight can be converted directly into hydrogen by means of photosynthesis. The most significant disadvantage of all techniques is the formation of oxyhydrogen gas. Even the use of membrane technology cannot prevent the inactivation of an oxygen-sensitive enzyme system and thus inhibit hydrogen production.

The UFZ contribution

UFZ scientists around Professor Dr. Andreas Schmid ( developed and patented a basic process step for the later production of hydrogen. The process avoids the formation of explosive oxyhydrogen gas by separating oxygen formation and hydrogen production. Furthermore, the use of single-cell biocatalysis will return higher yields in the long term.

The granted patent is an important basic patent. Although it does not describe a scalable process yet, it can be the fundament for developing a sustainable and marketable process for hydrogen production.

The UFZ is looking for partners to jointly make a significant contribution to the energy transition in the next few years and help establish hydrogen as an important and safe energy carrier of the future.

DE102017104648B4: A. Schmid, A. Hoschek, B. Bühler, Method for the bioreactive extraction of produced oxygen from a reaction chamber, and use of phototrophic microorganisms when obtaining hydrogen

Further information: Dr. Joachim Nöller ( ), Department of Knowledge  and Technology Transfer

June 2020

Cyclohexan Karande_Foto_@UFZ The industrial synthesis of C6 monomers for subsequent nylon production is currently typically based on cyclohexane oxidation at high temperatures and high pressures. In this process, especially the initial oxyfunctionalisation of cyclohexane is a critical step in terms of economic and ecological process efficiency. Therefore, the aerobic oxidation of a single thermodynamically stable and kinetically inert C-H bond in cyclohexane under sustainable and environmentally compatible conditions represents a major challenge in current academic and industrial research.

UFZ scientists of the Department of Solar Materials use cytochrome P450 monooxygenases (Cyps) which effectively catalyse regiospecific oxyfunctionalisations of inert C-H bonds under mild conditions. Due to their cofactor dependency and instability in isolated form, oxygenases are preferably applied in living microbial cells with Pseudomonas strains constituting potent host organisms for Cyps. The group around Bruno Bühler presents in the paper a holistic genetic engineering approach, considering gene dosage, transcriptional, and translational levels, to engineer an effective Cyp-based whole-cell biocatalyst, building on recombinant Pseudomonas taiwanensis VLB120 for cyclohexane hydroxylation. The optimised strain allows for a hydroxylation activity of 55 units per gram cell dry weight, a remarkably high value which has never been reported so far. Applying 5 mM cyclohexane, molar conversion and biomass-specific yields of 82.5% and 2.46 mmol cyclohexanol per gram of biomass were achieved, respectively. Furthermore, the strain was shown to be highly stable. Therefore, the strain now serves as a platform to design in vivo cascades and bioprocesses for the production of polymer building blocks such as epsilon-caprolactone.

The results of this study were also presented by the PhD student Lisa Schäfer during the Annual Meeting 2020 of the Association for General and Applied Microbiology (VAAM) in Leipzig in March (

Paper: Maximizing Biocatalytic Cyclohexane Hydroxylation by Modulating Cytochrome P450 Monooxygenase Expression in P. taiwanensis VLB120, Schaefer, Lisa; Karande, Rohan; Buehler, Bruno. Front. Bioeng. Biotechnol., 2020;8:140. Published 2020 Feb 27. DOI: 10.3389/fbioe.2020.00140

Further information: Prof. Dr. Bruno Bühler ( ), Department of Solar Materials

June 2020 UFZ scientists from the Department of Analytical Environmental Chemistry present a new and entirely mechanistic COSMOperm method to predict passive membrane permeabilities for neutral compounds, as well as anions and cations. The COSMOperm approach is based on compound-specific free energy profiles within a membrane of interest from COSMO-RS (conductor-like screening model for realistic solvation) calculations. A fully predictive calculation of passive permeation through phospholipid bilayer membranes results in a performance of r2 = 0.92; rmsd = 0.90 log10, units for neutral compounds and anions, as compared to gold standard black lipid membrane experiments. The paper demonstrates that new membrane types can be generated by the related COSMOplex method and directly used for permeability studies by COSMOperm.

In a second paper, the UFZ scientists propose a new model to predict pH-dependent baseline toxicity based on Kmem/w, which considers the permeation of both neutral and anionic species. For this approach, the bioaccumulative behaviour of six perfluoroalkyl carboxylic acids (PFCAs), three perfluoroalkanesulfonic acids, and four alternatives were investigated by various methods and predicted well by the COSMO-RS theory.


COSMOperm: Mechanistic Prediction of Passive Membrane Permeability for Neutral Compounds and Ions and its pH Dependence; Schwoebel, Johannes A. H.; Ebert, Andrea; Bittermann, Kai; Huniar, Uwe; Goss, Kai-Uwe; Klamt, Andreas; J. Phys. Chem. B., DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcb.9b11728

Membrane/Water Partitioning and Permeabilities of Perfluoroalkyl Acids and Four of their Alternatives and the Effects on Toxicokinetic Behavior; Ebert, Andrea; Allendorf, Flora; Berger, Urs; Goss, Kai-Uwe; Ulrich, Nadin; Environ. Sci. Technol., DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.0c00175

Further information: Prof. Dr. Kai-Uwe Goss ( ), Department of Analytical Environmental Chemistry

June 2020

May 2020

© UFZ The medium-chain fatty acids caproic (C6) and caprylic acid (C8) are valuable chemicals. However, industrial production of these fatty acids requires palm kernel and coconut oil. C6 and C8 fatty acids are widely used as additives in lubricants, detergents, cosmetics, food and feed additives. To this end, the UFZ develops a promising and significantly more sustainable production method, for which a demonstration plant is being planned.

A group of scientists around Dr. Heike Sträuber from the UFZ Department of Environmental Microbiology is developing an anaerobic fermentation process using dedicated or residual biomass and waste for the production of fatty acids by means of lactate-based microbial chain elongation. Due to the complexity of this process and with the substrate, mixed microbial communities are used in the bioreactor. Various chain elongating bacteria are known. Lactic acid bacteria also play an important role in this process, but so far, little is known about the interplay between acid-forming microorganisms involved in chain elongation (from C2/C4 acids to C6/C8 acids) and lactic acid bacteria.

In the present study, dynamics of the metabolism and the composition of the microbial community in the bioreactor were investigated and modelled in a long-term experiment over 148 days. Different product formation phases were identified and the metabolites were analysed to determine which microorganisms dominate in the different phases. Furthermore, it was found that in the initial phase an increased production of caproic and caprylic acid occurs, whereas in a closed reactor system butyrate-producing bacteria prevail in the long-time run.

These findings mean another important step towards the development of a marketable process to produce caproic and caprylic acid, contributing to a circular bioeconomy if embedded in a biorefinery concept, and will be included in the planning for a demonstration plant. For further information on the entire process and its capacities, please contact us ( ).

Paper: Competition between Butyrate Fermenters and Chain-Elongating Bacteria Limits the Efficiency of Medium-Chain Carboxylate Production; Bin Liu, Sabine Kleinsteuber, Florian Centler, Hauke Harms u. Heike Sträuber; Frontiers in Microbiology, Vol. 11, Art. Number 336, March 2020

Further information: Dr. Heike Sträuber ( ), Department of Environmental Microbiology

May 2020

© UFZ Since 31 December 2018, a new Radiation Protection Act has been in force in Germany, which prescribes a reference value for radon-222 activity concentration of 300 Bq/m3 averaged over the year in homes, schools and workplaces. In many regions of Germany, radon activity concentrations in soil air exceed 40,000 Bq/m³, so that measures must be taken to protect the population (Federal Office for Radiation Protection – BFS, 2019).

Scientists at the UFZ Department of Environmental Informatics around Prof. Dr. Holger Weiß have already shown in a first study that different meteorological parameters contribute to fluctuations of indoor radon activity concentrations (Schubert, Musolff, Weiss, 2018). First field tests, which were financed by the UFZ technology transfer fund, were carried out in various residential buildings in the Erzgebirge region. It could be demonstrated that the radon activity concentrations can be considerably reduced by using different ventilation control systems (Dehnert et al., 2019). Based on these results, a system will be developed in a third party funded ZIM project (ZIM – Central Innovation Programme for SME) that wirelessly integrates the radon activity concentration as a control parameter in decentralized ventilation systems with heat recovery and zone control and automatically controls the ventilation. Cooperation partners of the UFZ are SARAD GmbH in Dresden, inVENTer GmbH in Löberschütz, Bergsicherung Schneeberg GmbH & Co. KG, the housing administration company Gebäude- und Wohnungsverwaltung GmbH Schlema, and two Saxon authorities: Staatliche Betriebsgesellschaft für Umwelt und Landwirtschaft (Public Operating Company for Environment and Agriculture) and the sächsische Strahlenschutzbehörde (Saxon State Office for Radiation Protection) at the Landesamt für Umwelt, Landwirtschaft und Geologie (Saxon State Office for Environment, Agriculture and Geology).

Further reading:

Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz (BFS) (2019): Radon-Handbuch Deutschland 2019; Available online

Schubert, M., Musolff, A., & Weiss, H. (2018): Influences of meteorological parameters on indoor radon concentrations ((222)Rn) excluding the effects of forced ventilation and radon exhalation from soil and building materials. J Environ Radioact, 192, 81-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvrad.2018.06.011

Dehnert et al. (2019): Radonschutz in Wohnungen durch radonaktivitätskonzentrationsgesteuerte Lüfter. Jahrestagung 2019 Fachverband für Strahlenschutz e.V.; Strahlenschutz und Medizin, Patienten - Beschäftigte – Gesellschaft; Würzburg, 9.-12. September 2019.
Avaiblabe online

Further information: Prof. Holger Weiß ( ), Department of Environmental Informatics

May 2020

April 2020

Whey is one main by-product of the dairy industry and is difficult to valorise for small and medium enterprises. Microbial electrochemical technologies could be the key for these enterprises to exploit this current waste product.

UFZ scientists investigated whey removal and conversion to electrical current at microbial anodes using potentiostatically controlled half-cell experiments. The anodes (based on a robust complex microbial community) were fed with a whey solution containing ca. 1 g L-1 COD. This can be reliably cleaned with average removal efficiencies of 65.8 ± 10.9 %. The removal coincided with maximum current densities of 0.31 ± 0.06 mA cm-2 and Coulomb efficiencies of 37.1 ± 10.8 %. This was established in bioelectrochemical reactors by the end of four batch cycles, showing an efficient niche differentiation from the following successive enrichments.

The microbial analysis revealed a division of labour with mainly planktonic microorganisms degrading the complex whey components by fermentation to organic acids, part of which were subsequently used by the electroactive bacteria at the anode. The results show the need for deciphering microbial structure-function relationships for future process steering as well as engineering approaches.

Paper: Investigating Community Dynamics and Performance During Microbial Electrochemical Degradation of Whey; By: Esquivel, Diana Y. Alvarez; Guo, Yuting; Brown, Robert K.; et al., ChemElectroChem: Volume: 7, Issue: 4, pages: 989-997

Further information: Prof. Falk Harnisch ( ), Department Environmental Microbiology

April 2020

UFZ scientists, together with their colleagues from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research - HZI and the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, reported in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology that the extremophilic bacterial strain, Pseudomonas sp. TDA1, is able to degrade some of the chemical building blocks of polyurethane. This could perhaps be an important key to the recycling of polyurethane products.

In 2015 alone, polyurethane products accounted for 3.5 million metric tons of the plastics produced in Europe. Applications include refrigerators, building insulation, shoes and furniture. However, recycling the waste is difficult and energy-intensive and usually ends up in landfills, where it releases a number of toxic chemicals, some of which are carcinogenic.

In their genome analysis of the bacterial strain, the researchers identified enzymes that might help the microbes to use certain chemical compounds in plastics to generate energy. According to Dr. Christian Eberlein from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ , the strain belongs to a group of bacteria known for their tolerance to toxic organic compounds and other forms of stress.. He is co-author of the paper, and also coordinated and supervised the work.

However, the authors also point out in their work that even more "basic knowledge" such as that collected in the current study is needed before the leap into technological and commercial application becomes possible in the future.

The research is part of a European Union scientific programme called P4SB (From Plastic waste to Plastic value using Pseudomonas putida Synthetic Biology), which aims to find useful microorganisms that can transform oil-based plastics into fully biodegradable plastics. As the name suggests, the project has focused on a bacterium called Pseudomonas putida.

Link to the original research article
Press release

Further information: Dr. Hermann Heipieper ( ), Department Environmental Biotechnology

April 2020

Constructed wetlands (CWs) are effective ecological remediation technologies for various contaminated water bodies. UFZ scientists looked for benzene-degrading microbes in a horizontal subsurface flow CW with reducing conditions in the pore water, fed with benzene-contaminated groundwater.

Relevant microbes were identified by employing in situ microcosms (BACTRAPs, made from granulated activated carbon) coupled with 13C-stable isotope probing and Illumina sequencing of 16S rRNA amplicons. A significant incorporation of 13C was detected in RNA isolated from BACTRAPs loaded with 13C-benzene and exposed in the CW for 28 days. A shorter incubation time did not result in detectable 13C incorporation.
After 28 days, members from four genera, namely Dechloromonas, Hydrogenophaga, and Zoogloea from the Betaproteobacteria and Arcobacter from the Epsilonproteobacteria were significantly labelled with 13C and were abundant in the bacterial community on the BACTRAPs. Sequences affiliated to Geobacter, though numerous on the BACTRAPs, apparently did not metabolize benzene, as no 13C label incorporation was detected. However, they may have metabolized plant-derived organic compounds while using the BACTRAPs as electron sink.

In representative wetland samples, sequences affiliated with Dechloromonas, Zoogloea, and Hydrogenophaga were present at relative proportions of up to a few percent. Sequences affiliated with Arcobacter were present in < 0.01% in wetland samples. Thus the conclusion of the scientists, that microbes of likely significance for benzene degradation in a CW used for remediation of contaminated water have been identified.

Paper: Identification of benzene-degrading Proteobacteria in a constructed wetland by employing in situ microcosms and RNA-stable isotope probing; By: Nitz, Henrike; Duarte, Marcia; Jauregui, Ruy; et al., Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology - Volume: 104, Issue: 4, Pages: 1809-1820

Further information: Prof. Matthias Kästner ( ), Department Environmental Biotechnology

April 2020

UFZ researchers at Magdeburg successfully proposed a visualisation framework for data exploration, analysis and presentation of complex hydrological studies in large catchments. This enhances a further and deeper understanding of the interrelations between the included datasets, allows for discussions among researchers from different disciplines and is the basis for illustrating complex phenomena to stakeholders or the interested public.

Based on the 162,000 km2 catchment of Poyang Lake, the largest freshwater lake in China, a Virtual Geographic Environment that combines a wide range of 2D and 3D observation data sets with simulation results from both an OpenGeoSys groundwater model and a COAST2D hydrodynamic model visualising water and solute dynamics within and across hydrologic reservoirs were developed. The system aims for a realistic presentation of the investigation area and implements approaches of scientific visualisation to illustrate interesting aspects of multi-variate data in intuitive ways. And it employs easy-to-learn interaction techniques for navigation, animation, and access to linked data sets from external sources, such as time series data or websites, to function as an environmental information system for any region of interest.

Paper: A virtual geographic environment for multi-compartment water and solute dynamics in large catchments
By: Rink, Karsten; Nixdorf, Erik; Zhou, Chengzi; et al., Journal of Hydrology: Volume: 582, Article Number: 124507

Link to OpenGeoSys

Further information: Dr. Karsten Rink ( ), Department Environmental Informatics

April 2020

March 2020

The Steering Committee of the DECHEMA Biotechnology Association has been reconstituted in the course of the spring meeting of biotechnologists. Prof. Dr. Andreas Schmid from the UFZ (Department of Solar Materials) was elected as a member by the general meeting. In future, Prof. Dr. Andreas Liese, Hamburg University of Technology, will head the committee. 

With more than 1,800 members, the DECHEMA Biotechnology Association offers a forum where experts from academic research and industry can cooperate and exchange their ideas. Topics range from algae biotechnology and bioprocess technology to synthetic biology and cell culture technology. The Steering Committee is responsible for the coordination of activities and for the portfolio of committees within the DECHEMA Biotechnology Association. In addition, the committee develops proposals for strategic initiatives, deals with cross-committee topics and maintains contact with other organisations. The members of the Steering Committee are elected for three years.

Source: DECHEMA press release of 03 Feb 2020

Further information: Prof. Andreas Schmid ( ), Department of Solar Materials

March 2020

© UFZ Department of Knowledge & Technology Transfer presents UFZ research and gains valuable insights and contacts

The European Chemistry Partnering in Frankfurt, Germany, is an important networking event for the chemical industry in Germany and beyond. The UFZ, in turn, regards this sector as a key partner for the development and application of new, environmentally friendly processes and products. This sector plays an equally important role in the avoidance or remediation of environmental damage caused by existing production processes.

On 27 February 2020, representatives of the Department of Knowledge and Technology Transfer (WTT) attended one-on-one meetings set in a “speed dating” format and presented selected topics and research work in the thematic area “Environmental engineering and biotechnology” to identify common interests with relevant partners. Almost all of these meetings were followed up by a further exchange of information and providing first-time contacts to relevant UFZ scientists. The partnering event was a great success and is likely to be repeated in the future.

For questions and comments, please contact: Dr. Lydia Woiterski ( ), Department of Knowledge and Technology Transfer (WTT)

March 2020

February 2020

Dürrekonferenz_UFZ © UFZ
About 150 participants met on 14-15 January at the UFZ conference “Droughts in Central Germany – Impacts, Challenges, Adaptation Options”. The UFZ invited participants from science, practice, politics and administration to Leipzig to discuss the consequences of past droughts for agriculture and forestry. The participants also discussed how farmers and forest owners can adapt to changing climate conditions in the future and what input science can provide. The concrete results and demands are summarised below.

The consequences of the 2018/2019 drought

2018 and 2019 were generally considerably warmer years in Germany compared to the long-term average, with below-average precipitation. This led to a long-lasting, extreme drought, resulting in loss of agricultural yields, drought damage and pest infestation in the forests and had negative effects on shipping, the energy industry and tourism. In addition, there was an increase in land and forest fires in 2018. In many places, the dryness of the soil has led to very low groundwater recharge rates, the long-term effects of which cannot be predicted yet.

Will drought events become more frequent in the future?

The probability of heat waves, as in July 2019 in Germany, has increased about tenfold on average. Numerous studies have shown that these will occur both more frequently and more intensively in the future, including also longer periods of drought in Germany.

Need for political action

At present, the German Government and the Federal States are supporting agriculture and forestry above all in compensating for the worst financial consequences (e.g. drought aid). However, a more integrated and forward-looking policy approach by the Federal States and the Government is needed, including the following points:
• The coordinated and comprehensive assessment of future drought risks (e.g. for agriculture, forestry and water management, but also for ecosystems and their services);
• The development of political framework conditions that specifically promote sustainable and climate-related innovations in agriculture, forestry and water management (drought risk management);

• Regular review and updating of risk assessment and management approaches (monitoring and evaluation).

Research needs

Droughts are risks that have a negative impact on plant and animal species, ecosystems and society. Therefore, integrated drought research is needed, bringing together different disciplines from the natural and social sciences.

For example, trans- and interdisciplinary drought research must be established with the aim of assessing drought risks comprehensively and on different scales on a sectoral basis and developing sustainable and climate-specific adaptation measures and strategies.

It would also be important to develop a database on the consequences of droughts. The database should be multisectoral and could be based on the European Drought Impact Report Inventory (EDII) or European Drought Reference (EDR) database.

The conference in January 2020 was supported as part of the Helmholtz Climate Initiative and the CLIMALERT project, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research within the European Research Area for Climate Services (ERA4CS, The event was organised by the UFZ Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology and the Climate Office for Central Germany at the UFZ.

Further information: Prof. Christian Kuhlicke ( ), Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology

February 2020

Rappbode Reservoir in eastern Harz Mountains; Foto: André Künzelmann, UFZ Rappbode dam in the eastern Harz Mountains; Photo André Künzelmann, UFZ UFZ operates a unique monitoring infrastructure, namely the Talsperren-Observatorium Rappbode (TOR), at the Rappbode Reservoir in the Harz Mountains – the largest drinking water reservoir in Germany. TOR was built in 2011 as part of the TERENO project and includes 8 online stations for monitoring water quality. A special feature of TOR is the detailed monitoring of inflows into the reservoir. Most national and international monitoring activities focus only on the reservoir, whereby the monitoring of tributaries is neglected. TOR thus allows linkage between the catchment area and the water body - an extremely important driving factor for the quality of water in reservoirs.

The Saxony-Anhalt Dam Management company (TSB) was integrated into the project right from the start and provides working space and access to water and electricity. This cooperation was intensified in the course of the BMBF project TALKO, in which the dynamics of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in drinking water reservoirs were investigated and predictions of the development of DOC concentrations in the reservoir were made. Due to the further increasing DOC content, DOC has not only become the most important water quality determinant of the dam, but also has very serious negative effects on the drinking water treatment by Fernwasserversorgung Elbaue-Ostharz GmbH (FWV). The possibilities for the dam management company to minimise DOC inputs are extremely limited and require an adaptive control of water transfer to the Rappbode reservoir from the Bode system (possible by controlling the Königshütte pre-dam). TOR was also extremely beneficial to TSB and FWV. UFZ initiated an automatic forwarding of online data to the data storage facilities of TSB and FWV and TOR thus became an integral part of their operational management.

In summer 2019, it became evident that an overhaul of the installed sensor technology was inevitable. TSB took over all costs for the renewal of sensors, thus ensuring a successful operation of the observatory for the next years. TOR will continue to be operated jointly by UFZ, TSB and FWV and the collected data will be available to research and industry alike. Since its establishment, 30 international publications have appeared in the context of TOR.

Further information on TOR (in German)

February 2020

January 2020

Oman is one of the countries in the world that will have to contend with even greater water shortages in the future. Water scarcity is largely caused by unfavourable distribution and pollution of water resources. Therefore, wastewater treatment plays a key role in combating water scarcity. The aim is to close local water cycles and to prevent water pollution through safe collection and treatment. At the same time, treated water is made available for reuse. For this purpose, one focus of the Institute of Advanced Technology Integration (IATI) in Oman is to develop new solutions, which is supported by the UFZ.

Improvement of a reliable technology

In cooperation with the Research Council (TRC) of Oman and the Department of Environmental and Biotechnological Centre (UBZ) at the UFZ, the scientists developed an innovative system for integrated wastewater treatment and recycling. It was registered as a utility model with the title “A multi-functional cover layer unit for aerated wastewater treatment wetlands with integrated freshwater production and land recovery for recreational use and crop cultivation) in the Sultanate of Oman (OM/P/2019/000412)". Conventional wastewater treatment systems, such as aerated constructed wetlands (ACWs) according to the German design guidelines (DWA, 2017) require a relatively large area of land. In warm climate zones such as Oman and neighbouring countries, such a large area leads to high water losses (through evapotranspiration) and can therefore impair the function of these wetlands, as hydrology is the most important design factor. The new technological approach can remedy this disadvantage. It allows the production of high quality treated water that complies with the most stringent treatment class, i.e. 95% removal of BOD5, 90% removal of total P and 90% nitrification. Such treated water is suitable for agricultural irrigation and domestic use, especially in arid regions and arid countries.

Innovation Award and technical up-scaling

Shamsa Al Saadi of IATI, Oman, who received her doctorate from the UFZ, was awarded third place in the "Innovation" category for her outstanding solutions at the 2019 Water Research and Innovation Award Forum in Oman. The system developed was tested at the German BDZ Demonstration and Training Facility in Leipzig and is now to be implemented as a pilot plant on a technical scale in Oman.


Dr. Manfred van Afferden ( ), Centre for Environmental Biotechnology)

January 2020

© K.-D. Sonntag, foto+design UFZ Research Prize Awardees 2019
© Klaus-Dieter Sonntag
The ecotoxicologist Prof. Dr. Rolf Altenburger and the team of the EU-project SOLUTIONS led by PD Dr. Werner Brack received the Research Award 2019 of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) endowed with 10,000 euros.

Prof. Altenburger, head of the Department of Bioanalytical Ecotoxicology (BIOTOX), has been investigating mixtures of chemicals for several decades. Although concentrations of single chemicals decreased over the years, humans constantly bring new chemicals with new properties and unexpected effects into the environment which makes his research still indispensable. He is not only an excellent scientist, but also brings together interdisciplinary experts, acts as consultant and stimulates knowledge transfer with stakeholders and authorities like the Federal Environment Agency, European scientific committees or the Joint Research Centre of the EU Commission and contributes with his research to the regulation of chemicals on national and international level.

The second awardee is the team of the SOLUTIONS project funded with 12 million euros by the European Commission. A consortium of 39 cooperation partners (UFZ Departments of Effect-Directed Analysis, Ecological Chemistry, Cell Toxicology and BIOTOX) from 17 countries worked together with users from politics and authorities to find solutions for present and future emerging pollutants in land and water resources management. The monitoring of individual pollutants in water bodies is not sufficient. Therefore, this project focused on the monitoring of complex chemical mixtures and their degradation products and the assessment of the risk potential for the environment and humans. New monitoring tools, models and methods have been successfully developed and approved in case studies. Finally, novel approaches for the risk assessment and the reduction of pollution burden were transferred into recommendations and policy briefs to improve the European Water Framework Directive.

Further information

Brack, W. Solutions for present and future emerging pollutants in land and water resources management. Policy briefs summarizing scientific project results for decision makers. Environ Sci Eur 31, 74 (2019).

Policy Briefs

Solutions project


Prof. Rolf Altenburger ( ), Head of Department of Bioanalytical Ecotoxicology
PD Dr. Werner Brack ( ), Head of Department of Effect-Directed Analysis

January 2020

© UFZ In autumn 2019, the UFZ awards were presented for the sixth time. Every year, the UFZ honours outstanding achievements of UFZ staff and their special commitment to the UFZ. The UFZ Technology Transfer Award and the UFZ Knowledge Transfer Award were given to the following scientists.
Dr. Susanne Dunker (Department of Physiological Diversity) received the UFZ Technology Transfer Award 2019 for her research and development work on high-throughput analysis of ecological samples with imaging flow cytometry.

A team of scientists consisting of Dr. Christiane Schulz-Zunkel, Mathias Scholz (both Department of Conservation Biology), Dr. Mario Brauns and Prof. Dr. Markus Weitere (both Department of River Ecology) were awarded the UFZ Knowledge Transfer Award 2019. In the "Wilde Mulde" project, the team has created extensive transdisciplinary foundations with which long stretches of large Central European rivers can be successfully restored to its natural state.

January 2020