Pharmaqua – Selective Separation of anthropogenic micro pollutants by a hybrid membrane and adsorption process

Duration: 2016 – 2018


In recent years an increase of endocrine triggered malfunctions and diseases, like breast and testicular cancer, decreased sperm quality, reduced fertility among animals, was observed. Potentially, these are caused by environmental chemicals with hormonal effects, especially pharmaceuticals
State of the art municipal sewage treatment plants are designed for the removal of nutrients, biodegradable organic compounds and solids. Additionally, some organic micro pollutants are removed reasonably but most of these potentially harmful substances are not biodegraded or removed adsorptive and thus, are released into the environment, where they can affect aquatic organisms or, via the water circuit, also humans.


An innovative process for the removal of organic micro pollutants shall be developed by combining the benefits of hollow fiber membranes (“size exclusion”) with those of an adsorption step. This process shall not only focus on the selective separation of microorganisms and anthropogenic micro pollutants but also on an application as simple and cheap as possible. Usage of membrane technology is already investigated quite long, as membranes can be easily implemented in sewage treatment plants. As the adsorbents shall come preferably from regional sources, different zeolites and activated carbons are investigated.


Currently, development and production of suitable modified microfiltration membranes and investigation on adsorption properties, composition and grain size of different sorption materials is carried out.
Based on these results the suitability for the removal of organic micro pollutants of various interconnections of micro- and ultrafiltration membranes and sorption material will be experimentally evaluated. Additionally, a process concept for upscaling considering also the regeneration of membrane and adsorbents will be developed.
Within the project the Institute of Chemical, Environmental & Bioscience Engineering at TU Wien will develop this process concept. Therefore, basic engineering and process modelling and simulation of a suitable process is carried out. Additionally, CFD simulations are done in order to show potential flow problems.

Partners & Funding

  • SPIN Tec GmbH
  • Mach & Partner ZT-GmbH
  • TU Wien – Institute of Chemical, Environmental & Biological Engineering – Thermal Process Engineering and Simulation
  • MCI – Internationale Hochschule GmbH – Department of Environmental, Process & Energy Engineering
  • MCI – Internationale Hochschule GmbH – Department of Environmental, Process & Energy Engineering
  • TU Wien – Institute for Water Quality, Resource and Waste Management – Water Quality Management