Nano-structured composite adsorber membranes for the reduction of micropollutants in water (WaterMIM)

Authors: Klaus Niedergall M. Sc., Dr. Monika Bach, Priv.-Doz. Dr. Günter Tovar


In recent years, the excessive exploitation of natural resources and widespread use of chemicals has led to the accumulation of various pollutants in our environment. This has received much attention due to the adverse effects of pollutants on human health. In particular, several contaminants largely affect present and future treatment technologies utilized by the drinking-water industry. Some of the existing, pending or potential emerging contaminants are synthetic organic compounds (SOCs), such as pesticides, pharmaceutical active compounds (PhACs) and endocrine disrupting compounds (EDRs). PhACs and EDRs are a new class of synthetic organic compounds that the Environ­mental Protection Agency considers for future regulation. PhACs (i.e., Propanolol, Penicilline, Bupivacaine, Sildenafil, Quecertin and Caffeine) and EDRs (i.e., Oestradiol, Ethinyloestradiol, Oestrone, Bisphenol-A, Nonyphenol, Tributyltin, etc.) are essentially drugs or other SOCs that can be discharged into water supplies and adversely affect the citizens’ health.

Actually, studies have linked these compounds to diverse biological effects in animals (reduced fertility, male and female reproductive tract abnormalities, and skewed male/female sex ratios, loss of fetus, menstrual problems, changes in hormone levels, early puberty, brain and behaviour problems, impaired immune functions, and various cancers), giving rise to concerns that low-level exposure might cause similar effects in humans. For the removal of these substances, several methods, such as ozonation, UV radiation, membrane filtration, and activated carbon adsorption have been developed. However, these methods are normally non-selective and result in a secondary pollution. Catalytic oxidation/reduction of organic pollutants by metal oxides (i.e., titanium oxide) or other active metals (i.e., Pd-Cu) is the newest water treatment technique. However, these catalytically active materials usually do not target specific pollutants but also attack other water compounds, which leads to unwanted side reactions and additional costs for reductants/oxidants. The addition of substrate specificity to the catalysts would help to reduce unwanted side reaction and costs.

It is evident that novel materials with high selectivities for the eclectic removal of toxic chemicals and other contaminants are urgently required. More specifically, innovative methods for the synthesis of advanced functional materials and the development of novel tailor-made membranes/filters with high selectivity and long-term performance stability are demanded. One of the promising class of new and highly selective functional materials is the molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs).
MIPs can be used as selective sorbents for a wide range of biological, pharmaceutical and environmental applications. These developments underline the potential use of MIPs as selective adsorbing materials in water treatment, detection and monitoring of pollutants at low concentrations. Molecularly imprinted materials can be also com­bined with catalysts resulting in novel composite adsorbent/catalyst systems. The WATERMIM project is focused on the advancement and optimization of the MIP technology in order to produce functional materials with well-defined morpho­logies with respect to pore structure and selectivity for water treatment applications.


We thank for funding in the 7th Framework Programme of the European Union.

Project partner

  • Center for Research and Technology Hellas - GREECE – Professor Dr. Costas Kiparissides (Koordinator)
  • University of Linnaeus (Kalmar), Schweden – Professor Dr. Ian A. Nicholls
  • Universität Dortmund – Professor Dr. Börje Sellergren
  • Lund University, Schweden – Professor Dr. Lei Ye
  • Cranfield University, UK – Professor Dr. Sergey Piletsky
  • Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut, Braunschweig – Professor Dr. Klaus Vorlop
  • Fa. KeraNor, Norway – Dr. Bernt Thorstensen
  • Fa. Biotage (ehemalig MIP –Technologies), Lund, Schweden – Dr. Ecevit Yilmaz
This image shows Günter Tovar

Günter Tovar

Prof. Dr.

Director (acting)

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