Production and treatment of drinking water

Water vapor in the atmosphere is a source of high-quality drinking or process water. Current research at Fraunhofer IGB is focusing on the use of efficient adsorption systems that capture atmospheric water and, when required, release this as drinking water and other purposes.

We have many years of expertise in the investigation of bacterial contamination and in the determination of the efficacy of individual disinfection approaches. We specialize in the identification of bacteria and fungi as well as in the analysis of biofilms and how to reduce or avoid them in technical systems.

Thermal processes for drinking water production and water treatment

In many regions of the world, climate change, high water consumption and a growing world population have led to a shortage of natural drinking water resources. In coastal areas, for example in southern Europe and on many islands in the Mediterranean, groundwater is already salinated by the infiltration of seawater.

However, common technologies for water desalination, such as reverse osmosis and conventional thermal processes, are energy-intensive and consume large amounts of fossil fuels, directly or indirectly, with significant CO2 emissions. Fraunhofer IGB is developing an energy-efficient and low-cost alternative that allows thermal energy to be used for multi-stage vacuum evaporation of water even at comparatively low temperatures. The negative pressure required for evaporation is generated and maintained by an innovative solution using gravity alone.

Another resource for obtaining drinking or process water of the highest quality is air humidity. Current research work concentrates on the implementation of concepts that enable the air humidity to be bound in a hygroscopic salt solution and released as usable water.

Membrane filtration processes

In industry, membrane technology has also proven itself as a separation technology for the treatment of raw water to process water or for the purification of process wastewater. They operate without phase change, and the equipment required is kept within limits. Further advantages are simple upscaling (modularity) and low chemical consumption.  

At Fraunhofer IGB, membrane materials, membranes and membrane processes are researched and developed for microfiltration (MF, suspended particles, bacteria), ultrafiltration (UF, macromolecules, viruses and colloids), nanofiltration (NF, organic compounds and divalent ions) and reverse osmosis (monovalent ions).