Plasma process for water purification

Atmospheric water plasma as a demo system.
© Fraunhofer IGB
Atmospheric water plasma as a demo system.
Detail of a coaxial DBD reactor with water film.
© Fraunhofer IGB
Detail of a coaxial DBD reactor with water film.

Your challenge

Pollutants such as drug residues, pesticides, herbicides and chemicals in industrial wastewater are hardly accessible by biological wastewater treatment. These substances can be removed in the so-called quaternary treatment step by means of advanced oxidation processes (AOP) using oxidizing agents such as ozone and hydrogen peroxide as well as UV radiation. However, these cleaning methods generally require chemical additives that are considered hazardous substances, which must be applied in a suitable dosing scheme and disposed of properly.


Our solution

The use of plasma processes is an environmentally friendly and cost-effective alternative. By applying an electrical current, ions, highly-reactive short-lived radicals and short-wave radiation are generated in the plasma from the ambient air and atmospheric oxygen, and break down the wastewater constituents.



Hence, the use of additional chemicals and their disposal is not required because the reactive particles are generated only during discharge and react rapidly with pollutants dissolved in water due to their high reactivity. In contrast to the established advanced oxidation processes, the plasma process for water decontamination uses no barrier between the plasma and the medium to be cleaned. It is therefore virtually maintenance-free and characterized by a long service life.



In cooperation with various partners within the EU-funded project “WaterPlasma”, it was demonstrated that pollutants such as atrazine, lindane, 2.4-dibromophenol and chlorfenvinphos (pesticides) as well as cyanides are broken down very quickly and effectively in an open plasma reactor.

As part of the BMBF-funded project "WasserPlasmax", the degradation of perfluorinated surfactants (PFAS) and various pharmaceuticals such as carbamazepine and dicophenac was demonstrated on laboratory samples using different reactor systems.

In the current project "AtWaPlas", the degradation of perfluorinated chemicals (PFAS) from environmentally sourced groundwater, leachate and washing water is specifically investigated using an atmospheric water plasma.


Application areas

Plasma processes are suited for the removal of trace organics such as residues of pharmaceuticals, cyanides, pesticides, etc. Microorganisms can also be inactivated in the plasma. Thus, plasma processes can be configured for applications in drinking water treatment, process water treatment, the treatment of ballast water etc.

At the international level, particularly in Asia and the US, many research activities of water treatment are targeting applications in agriculture.

Our services

© Fraunhofer IGB
  • Investigation of contaminant degradation using different plasma processes on a bench scale
  • Determination of degradation efficiency
  • Characterization of degradation products
  • Process scaling

We are pleased to carry out this work on behalf of customers or as part of funded projects.



Product sheet "Plasma process for water purification"

Reference projects

AtWaPlas –

Treatment and recovery of PFAS-contaminated water by means of atmospheric water plasma treatment


Per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFAS) have contaminated groundwater and soils at numerous sites due to their widespread industrial use (e.g. as extinguishing and wetting agents). Conventional remediation methods are complex and costly. Therefore, the AtWaPlas project aims to develop a new process for eliminating PFAS from groundwater, seepage water and washwater based on atmospheric plasma treatment.


Duration: July 2021 – June 2023

WasserPlasmax –

Increasing efficiency of plasma sources for the organic decontamination of water


The project WasserPlasmax investigates how pollutants in water can be degraded using plasma technology and whether photocatalytic surfaces can enhance the degradation processes. After construction and testing of different reactor configurations, a demonstrator will be realized, which is available for industrial application studies.


Duration: August 2014 – December 2015


WaterPlasma –

Water decontamination technology for the removal of recalcitrant xenobiotic compounds based on atmospheric plasma technology


For the removal of poorly biodegradable substances, the use of atmospheric pressure plasma processes may be an environmentally friendly and cost effective alternative. The aim of the EU-funded project was therefore to develop a plasma process for the purification of water and a suitable plasma reactor.


Duration: January 2011 – December 2012