A macrosolution to the problem of microplastics

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

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 spoke with entrepreneur Frank Thelen about SPRIND. I thought it was good, new, and pretty inspiring. So I immediately contacted SPRIND with my project. What was crazy was that they responded the very next day.”

But let’s start at the beginning, with a quick look at Damann’s restless life as an impassioned engineer, inventor, entrepreneur and world traveler on behalf of water quality. In the 1980s, he co-invented AQUATECTOR®, a system that would revolutionize aquaculture and fish farming all over the world. In the 1990s, he and his engineering firm emerged as specialists in wastewater treatment by means of microflotation – a process dating back to the Middle Ages. The method has remained essentially unchanged since then: hydrophobic particles are bound to gas bubbles and transported to the surface on the bubbles as they rise. Damann has simply meticulously perfected the method and taken it worldwide (currently with more than 300 references in more than 50 countries).

For his part in making microflotation the standard in wastewater treatment, he has been presented with the Innovation Award NRW, among other things. But rather than rest on his laurels, he views the honor as an incentive and an obligation. From the little town of Paderborn, Roland Damann thinks big: “We need to make microflotation even smarter.”

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

THE INNOVATION: MICROBUBBLES VERSUS MICROPLASTIC

Viewed in perspective, the situation is as follows: Microflotation systems are highly effective, but only if one “places them next to a body of water.” To clean the water, it has to be pumped or isolated from lakes or seas. If the amounts of water involved (from cities and towns or industrial plants) are manageable, it is a brilliant solution. For large bodies of water and their huge pollution problems, however, this is unfortunately unrealistic. Until now.

The great new idea that drives Roland Damann: introducing microflotation directly into lakes, rivers and seas. “We’ll place a compact floating ring in the water as a carrier. In the middle of the ring, we generate microbubbles 30-50 micrometers in diameter (one third of a human hair), at an operating pressure of less than 3 bar. They form a mist-like bubble cloud with extremely high bubble density – two million bubbles per liter, all rising very slowly, attracting even the finest microplastic particles like a magnet, holding them and transporting them to the water’s surface. That’s where we strip everything away – leaving nearly 100% microplastic-free water. Without chemicals, maintenance-free, and with extremely low energy consumption.”

Roland Damann and his team – 60% of whom are women – are currently working intensively on a buoyant prototype. He refers to it as his life’s dream. We refer to it as a disruptive innovation in environmental technology.

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