Environmental Chemistry and Technology
The Section for Environmental Chemistry and Technology is sub-divided into three sections:
- Environmental Analysis
- Environmental Impacts
- Environmental Solutions
A common theme for all research activity in the section is - the chemical - the link between the population and the environment. This includes the human impact on the environment, the effect of exposure of environmental chemicals on human health and mitigation of those impacts on humans and environment through sustainable technological solutions.
The section's areas of expertise include:
- Development and adaptation of analytical and sampling methods
- New environmental toxins; pharmaceutical products, drugs, biocides, peroxides, UV substances, etc.
- Passive samplers for a variety of organic and inorganic parameters
- Nanoparticles, metal speciation
- Development, validation and testing of technologies for the removal and degradation of contaminants from drinking, municipal and industrial water/wastewater
The activities in the section for Environmental Chemistry and Technology are rooted in analytical chemistry for better understanding of the type of environmental contaminants to enable their removal or mitigation through sustainable and cost-effective solutions and thus minimize their impact. We develop improved methodologies for analyzing samples (water, sediments, sludge, biota) to investigate the presence of a variety of chemical species. The chemical species include new pollutants, pharmaceuticals and veterinary medicines, pesticides, biocides and classic persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Additionally, we have resources and expertise for determining microbiological quality of water and wastewater as well as quantification of DNA/genes. The section uses advanced analytical instruments for the carrying out in-depth analysis. Some of the featured analytical tools include:
- LC-MS / MS
- SFC-MS / MS
- GC-MS / MS
- Particle counter
- Flow cytometer
In addition to analysis, the section also conducts novel and practical research to minimize the effects of chemicals on the environment. This involves studying and modeling the effect of contaminants and designing better technologies for removing pollution in process streams to minimize environmental discharges. In addition to routine and conventional treatment technologies widely applied in municipal and industrial sector, we investigate the removal and/or destruction of contaminants using advanced treatments such as bench and pilot-scale membrane filtration systems (for removal of organic matter and contaminants of emerging concern including antibiotic resistance genes) and ultraviolet-based processes (direct UV treatment for disinfection/damaging DNA/antibiotic resistance genes and advanced oxidation processes for contaminant degradation). Our membrane filtration units are capable of testing different membranes under various testing conditions to provide custom-based solutions. The UV-based systems use both conventional lamps and novel UV-light emitting diodes that are capable of emitting UV at different wavelengths for optimized and cost-effective treatment performance. We develop solutions that are applicable in several industries including municipal and industrial water/wastewater, oil & gas, aquaculture, and ballast water treatment.
Specific research themes
1. Hypothesis-free environmental screening
A key focus of the section is cutting-edge research and development of new and innovative algorithms for exploring HRMS datasets.
2. Sewage-based epidemiology
The researchers in the section for Environmental Chemistry and Technology are world leaders in sewage-based epidemiology. We are working on analyzing common drains for exogenous and endogenous biomarkers to estimate human exposure to chemicals. Our research network includes researchers working in various research areas such as analytical chemistry, physiology and biochemistry, sewage technology, epidemiology and statistical and conventional epidemiology.
3. Water and wastewater engineering
We combine multidisciplinary expertise of our team to design and test technologies for the removal and degradation of a range of conventional and emerging contaminants. A special emphasis is given to the sustainability and cost-effectiveness of the treatments through process optimization.
Our clients engage with us to solve challenges and realize their goals within areas such as:
- Municipal wastewater
- Industrial wastewater
- Drinking water
- Reclamation and reuse of wastewater
- Membrane concentrate management
a) Analytical method development
We have developed in-house methods for investigating the removal and damage of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) upon treatment by some of the most efficient advanced treatment solutions available. Irrespective of the complexity of the matrix, we have expertise and resources available for determining the chemical and microbiological quality of water and wastewater by using state-of-the-art analytical tools.
b) Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) control
It is well known that widespread use and misuse of antimicrobial agents (antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, antiparasitics) contribute to the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in different environmental matrices including drinking water and wastewater. Given that urban WWTPs are recognized as hotspots for AMR and conventional technologies are not efficient in removing or completely inactivating antibiotic resistance bacteria (ARBs) and antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs), our group focuses on improved and advanced solutions for their effective removal/damage. Our research and development work explore effective measures to minimize the release of ARGs into the environment. According to our recent research, membrane filtration may provide an effective measure for reducing the risk represented by the release of ARGs to receiving water bodies and spreading of antibiotic resistance in the environment.
Since conventional disinfection is based on achieving pathogenic inactivation, current disinfection approaches do not achieve adequate DNA damage which is required to minimize AMR. 1Recently, we emphasized on the need for a shift in approach from conventional pathogenic inactivation to destroying the ARGs. We use different wavelength UV-LEDs, a mercury-free source of UV radiation, for achieving disinfection objectives of the future. Our work has shown that UV-LEDs can effectively damage the DNA leading to reduced spread of resistance genes.
4. Effects of microplastics (MP) on agricultural systems and power environments
A large fraction of microplastics produced in industrialized countries are trapped by sewers. A large part of the sewage sludge is then dispersed in agriculture. This is daunting, since plastic polymers can contain toxic substances and endocrine disruptors. Researchers in the section are trying to make a significant contribution to avoiding pollution in agricultural landscapes and are developing guidance on how drainage management can affect microplastic mobility. This highly interdisciplinary work includes risk communication, stakeholder engagement, ecotoxicology, wastewater modeling, decision support tools, monitoring and the experimental work needed to understand and minimize microplastics challenges in agro-systems.
- IMPASSE - Impacts of MicroPlastics on AgrosystemS and Stream Environments
- IMPASSE aims to identify the transport pathways and possible ecological impacts of microplastics added to agricultural land
5. Nordic expertise in bioeconomy - NordAqua
NordAqua is a five year (2017-2022) Nordic Centre of Excellence (NCoE) funded by NordForsk through the Nordic Bioeconomy Programme. The consortium gathers together world-leading Nordic scientists who are experts in microbiology, photosynthesis, synthetic biology, industrial biotechnology, medical sciences, water management, environmental research and entrepreneurship. The resultant hub enhances cross border Nordic collaborations within the sustainable blue bioeconomy. The specific focus of NordAqua is to pave the way for industrial applications of micro- and macroalgae in Nordic environments.