Focal areas
Water management
Linked project
Die Kaiserslauterer Professorin Heidrun Steinmetz koordiniert das Projekt. © Koziel/TUK
Kaiserslautern Professor Heidrun Steinmetz coordinates the project.

Research project: Wastewater treatment in China is expected to become more resource and energy efficient

How wastewater in China can be processed in a more resource-efficient manner is the subject of a new German-Chinese research project. Among other things, topics include how phosphorus can be extracted from wastewater as well as new processes that purify water with higher energy efficiency. The "PIRAT-Systems" project is coordinated by Professor Heidrun Steinmetz. She is head of the Department of Resource Efficient Wastewater Technology at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern (TUK). Steinmetz's team will be working with project partners in Germany to adapt tried-and-tested technologies to the Chinese market. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (FMER) is funding the project for three years with three million euros.

Sanitation is facing a paradigm shift worldwide. "It is moving away from a waste management industry towards a resource-oriented approach", says Professor Steinmetz of the TUK. "In the future, the contents of wastewater will be recovered and used". In addition, disposal companies are working to reduce the energy used to clean the water using new techniques. "The challenge is to achieve even better cleaning performance", she continues. In addition, organic waste and sewage sludge should be used for the production of biogas.

In Germany, there are already a number of procedures for this. "But they cannot be easily used in other countries, because the constraints, such as the composition of the wastewater and the cleaning requirements, are different", explains the professor.

In the new research project "Energetic Process Optimization and Implementation of Resource Efficient Wastewater Technologies in Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plants" (PIRAT-Systems), an interdisciplinary team from Germany is working with Tongji University Shanghai and other Chinese partners to develop selected technologies adapted to the Chinese market. Planners, plant manufacturers, operators, fertilizer processing companies, authorities and research institutions are involved. In addition, the international team will develop concepts for two Chinese treatment plants to increase their energy efficiency, to improve the effluent quality of the water, especially with regard to the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus, and to recover phosphorus from wastewater.

The team will also develop appropriate measures to transfer the new developments to other wastewater plants inside and outside China. The project also aims to expand the tasks of a wastewater treatment plant. "We will investigate which marketing opportunities are available for recycling products and how natural gas can be processed and fed into the natural gas grid", says Steinmetz. Support and acceptance by the population also play a role here.

All in all, the participants are striving to develop closed material cycles and to comply with the strict limits in China thanks to the very good cleaning performance of the sewage treatment plants.

PIRAT-Systems is thus making an important contribution to improving the environmental situation in the areas of water protection, climate protection and sustainable resource management. The project is coordinated by Professor Steinmetz. In addition to the TUK, the following German partners are involved: Dresdener Grundwasserforschungszentrum e.V, Hochschule Emden-Leer, Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences, University of Hohenheim, BHU Umwelttechnik GmbH, LUG Engineering GmbH, SF-Soepenberg GmbH, Thorsis Technologies GmbH, UMTEC Silo- und Schüttgutengineering GmbH.

The project "Energetic Process Optimization and Implementation of Resource Efficient Wastewater Technologies in Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plants" (PIRAT-Systems) is funded for three years by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in the "Research for Sustainable Development - FONA, CLIENT II - International Partnerships for Sustainable Innovation" framework project. It started in September 2018.

Scientific contacts:
Professor Heidrun Steinmetz
Department of Resource Efficient Wastewater Technology
Telephone.: 0631 205-2944
E-mail: Heidrun.steinmetz(at)


This article was published online on November 21, 2018. The text is published here courtesy of Technische Universität Kaiserslautern.