SIM CON DRILL
INNOVATIVE FILTER MODULES FOR
THE SEPARATION OF
MICROPLASTIC FROM WASTE WATER
Microplastics are discharged into our wastewater and the environment every day. Thus far wastewater treatment plants are not able to sufficiently reduce microplastics. Therefore our focus is on the development of a filter that is ready for serial production, which enables the filtration of particles down to 0.01mm (this equals the thickness of household aluminium foil) based on the patented cyclone filter. Due to its special technology, this filter is clogging and maintenance-free and not a disposable filter. Once the prototype has been built, it will be tested in a treatment plant using real wastewater.
PROJECT REALIZATION LEVEL
The project began with the development of a laser drilling process to produce 10µm holes in thick metal sheets. Today, the production of these small holes in 200µm thick sheets is possible. In the following step the process will be scaled up for serial production. First test runs entail the integration of drilled test foils into the cyclone filter to start testing on functional and flow properties. Concomitantly, a process simulation was developed to calculate optimized parameters. In order to ensure optimum total flow-through, an in-line process control for the laser process is currently being developed to check whether each hole has been entirely perforated.
YOUR PROJECT’S CONTRIBUTION TO THE ENVIRONMENT ACHIEVED & POTENTIAL
Microplastic is a far-reaching problem and our wastewater treatment is not able to filter out these particles efficiently. This newly developed cyclone filter will be able to filter these particles up to a size of 10µm. In our project, the prototype of this filter will be produced and the technology for mass production will be developed. In subsequent projects machines for industrial production must be installed so that the cyclone filter is available for all wastewater treatment plants. In addition,the drilling process can be used for other applications in this field, e.g. replacing existing plastic filters.
What are microplastics?
Microplastics are polymer particles with a size of less than 5 mm. These particles are either deliberately used in different products or are caused by abrasion or erosion of bigger plastic products. Primary microplastics are synthetic micropolymers which are for example used in many hygiene products as peeling particles, as binder or filler materials. After use of the product these microplastics are discharged into the water cycle and thus into our food chain. Secondary microplastics are microplastics which result from degradation or wear and tear of larger plastic parts. Some examples are disposables from the packaging industry, wear of tires or textile fibers from functional wear.
Why are microplastics dangerous?
Microplastics are already known to cause environmental damage. Via our waste water and the water cycle microplastics enter the food chain. It has been proven that microplastics accumulate in the human body. But it is still not known which long term effects have to be expected for humans and the environment. For example, in birds it has been observed that microplastics accumulate in the stomach and suppress the sensation of hunger. Also mechanical injuries in the gastrointestinal tract of birds as well as inflammations due to undigested particles have been observed. Within another study on mussels (My-tilus edulis) it has been demonstrated that resorbed microplastics cause inflammatory reactions in the digestive tract.
How many microplastic particles are in our water?
Current estimations suggest that approximately 140 million tons of plastic particles have been discharged into the sea. The Alfred-Wegener-Institute investigated in a study how many particles with a size of less than 500 µm cannot be filtered out of the water by a typical sewage plant. According to this study more than 700 particles per cubic meter are not being retained which amounts to 5.3 billion particles per year. It is even more critical that many of these particles are only few micrometers in size.
Why do we need new filters for microplastics?
All kinds of microplastics, regardless whether primary or secondary, that are discharged into our wastewater and subjected to wastewater treatment cannot be filtered out sufficiently by the sewage plants. Therefore microplastics are causing increasing problems in the environment and jeopardize the health of all creatures. Filters that can be used for these small particles do already exist. However, these filters themselves are disposables meaning they have to be replaced by new filters and disposed of after a certain time. The here newly developed filter is based on the cyclone filter which is self-purifying and therefore can be used over a long period.
Peter Abels (Fraunhofer ILT)
Burkhard Hoche (Lunovu GmbH)
Georg Klass jr. (Klass-Filter GmbH)
Thilo Bartels (Fraunhofer ILT)
Dr. Markus Niessen (Fraunhofer ILT)
Dr. The-Quan Pham (OptiY GmbH)
Andrea Lanfermann (Fraunhofer ILT)
Dr. Claudia Riester (LaserJob GmbH)