A macrosolution to the problem of microplastics

The innovator: Roland Damann, inventor and world traveler for water quality

Roland Damann
If you ask Roland Damann what brought him to SPRIND, he is delighted to respond: “I was listening to the podcast ‘Startup-DNA’ when Rafael Laguna talked about SPRIND with the entrepreneur Frank Thelen. I thought it was good, new, and pretty inspiring. So I immediately contacted them with my project. I was stunned, they responded the next day.”

But let us start at the beginning and take a look at Damann's restless life as a passionate engineer, inventor, entrepreneur and world traveler for water quality. In the 1980s, he developed an oxygen input system that revolutionized aquaculture and fish farming worldwide. In the 1990s, his engineering company became world renowned in ‘flotation’, a wastewater treatment process known since the Middle Ages. The underlying mechanism is simple: Hydrophobic particles attach to gas bubbles and float to the surface. This has not changed, but Damann transformed it into a highly energy efficient and perfectly controllable microflotation process with over 350 installations in more than 50 countries.

For his tireless efforts in making microflotation the standard for wastewater treatment, Damann was awarded – among other things – the Innovation Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia. He does not rest on his laurels, but considers this honor an incentive and obligation. In the small city of Paderborn, Roland Damann thinks big: "We have to make microflotation even smarter.”
Test laboratory

There’s a big, new idea that drives Roland Damann: introducing microflotation directly into lakes, rivers and seas.

Roland Damann and his team

Microflotation systems do work well, but only by "putting them next to the water." You have to pump the water out of lakes or oceans to clean it. Great for manageable amounts of water (from municipalities and industrial plants), but unrealistic for large bodies of water with giant pollution problems. Until now.

The big, new idea that drives Roland Damann: Injecting microscopic air bubbles directly and autonomously into stormwater retention ponds, lakes, rivers and oceans. "We will put a compact floating platform on the water. In the center, we will generate microbubbles with a diameter of 10 to 50 micrometers - about one-third of a hair - at minimal energy expenditure. The bubbles form a mist-like cloud with an extremely high density of about two million bubbles per liter. They rise very slowly, attract even the finest microplastic particles like a magnet and transport them to the surface. From there, we can remove the plastics – leaving behind water that is almost 100 percent free of suspended matter and microplastics. No chemicals, no maintenance, and an extremely low energy consumption. We specifically target the finest impurities in the water, such as tire abrasion and extremely fine plastic particles.

Roland Damann and his team are currently working intensively on a floating prototype to conduct hydraulic tests in open water.
Microflotation in the laboratory
Microflotation system

He calls it his lifelong dream. We call it a disruptive innovation in environmental technology.

To help achieving a breakthrough, MicroBubbles GmbH was founded in April 2021 with the support of SPRIND. And a lot has happened since. Not only is the floating prototype scheduled to launch in fall of 2022, the team has also grown to eleven employees - with a female quota of 40 percent that is sensational in the field of environmental technology. The team holds a diverse skill set with expertise in plant engineering, meteorology, oceanography, mechanical engineering, and plastics and process engineering. Their Inventors' Labspace in Bad Lippspringe near Paderborn provides the ideal setting: a 400-square-meter laboratory area including an experimental workshop. "Now we can conduct our experiments across scales, be creative, test and work on practical implementations," Damann is enthusiastic.

From fall 2022, the team will put the technology to the test at Paderborn’s municipal wastewater treatment plant. Three laboratory and office containers with measurement technology and a pilot plant will be in operation to investigate wastewater streams. In parallel, surface water is being investigated at a second pilot plant in Bad Lippspringe.

"For the first time, I can do something that I am really convinced of and where commercial success is not the driver, but the success of the idea itself."

MicroBubbles Modellzeichnung
MicroBubbles Modellzeichnung
While rooted in the original idea, MicroBubbles GmbH also wants to venture into new territory and establish an entirely new ecosystem for water treatment: "Simply providing the technology is not enough. That is why we are going to find ways and tools to identify the microplastic hotspots, so we can put microflotation to work there." For Damann and his team establishing a whole new ecosystem also means bringing about change as early as possible: "We need to create more awareness about plastic consumption and help to reduce it." They envision a huge knowledge database around plastics and microplastics.

Last but not least, Damann and his ambitious team have set their sight on a Global Water Strategy: "Half a billion people have no access to drinking water and get a portion of their water from drinking bags, which means enormous amounts of plastics and micropollutants that end up in the environment. Moreover, 3.6 billion people have no access to sanitation." Today's wastewater treatment technology is essentially more than 2,000 years old and not available in many parts of the world. "Essentially, this means we need a new architecture for water and wastewater technology that works in countries without extensive wastewater infrastructure and in an uncomplicated way," Roland Damann describes. Big goals for small bubbles.

More about MicroBubbles: microbubbles.org


Because microplastics are a serious global problem - with negative impacts on our ecosystem that can hardly be assessed at present.
Because we are pioneers and want to develop solutions even before legal regulations force us to do so.
Because the passion and energy of the innovator convinced us from the very first second.

We founded a limited liability company from the idea.
We provide the framework so that the innovator and his team can concentrate 100 percent on their work.
We promote the topic at trade fairs and congresses and provide support in becoming publicly visible.

The development of a revolutionary technology for water and wastewater treatment - low-cost, low-energy, autonomous.
With which we can make a sustainable contribution to environmental protection and the proactive improvement of all waters.
The big goal: clean water, free of microplastics and micropollutants.

The technology offers far-reaching potential for innovation, even beyond the microplastics issue. What is possible and how do small bubbles help us solve the challenges of our time? That is what we want to know.

Science Youtuber Jacob Beautemps presents MicroBubbles Technology at Breaking Lab

MicroBubbles Video

SPRIND Podcast

Thomas Ramge spricht mit
Menschen, die Neues neu denken.
  • #9: Roland Damann (25. 5. 2021)

    Wie kommt Mikroplastik ins Wasser? Wie bekommen wir es dort wieder heraus? Und wie sähe eine Welt aus, in der alle Menschen Zugang zu sauberem Wasser hätten? Unser Host Thomas Ramge fragt: Den Erfinder und Wasserreinigungspionier Roland Damann.