Wetsus and TU Delft win international water prize for the development of ViviMag

Wetsus and TU Delft have won the silver award in the prestigious International Water Association’s (IWA) Project Innovation Award  in the category “Breakthroughs in Research and Development”. It was handed out at the IWA World Water Congress & Exhibition, the 13th of September in Copenhagen, Denmark. Out of 203 entries from 52 countries, the technology for magnetically extracting the valuable element phosphorus from wastewater – ViviMag® – came out as one of the three winners with the silver award.

The IWA is the world’s largest water association with members in 140 countries. It is a platform where innovation and adoption come together to a better global water use. ViviMag® is such an innovation – aiming for valorizing wastes, driving European resource independence, and combatting pollution of natural waters. The ViviMag technology was developed by Wetsus and TU Delft, in cooperation with Kemira, STOWA, water authority Brabantse Delta, Vandcenter Syd, Aquaminerals, Aquacare and Waterschapsbedrijf Limburg. Recently also Royal Haskoning DHV joined the development. The pilot phase was realised with financial funding from EIT Raw Materials, an EU innovation community.

ViviMag started with fundamental research by Wetsus and TU Delft that identified that vivianite is a key mineral in sewage treatment plants. The paramagnetic property of this mineral was then exploited to recover the vivianite from sewage sludge using magnetic separation equipment borrowed from the mining industry, thus creating a nice example of “urban mining”. With financial support of the European EIT Raw Materials program this approach was successfully piloted at the Breda sewage treatment plant of the Dutch water authority Brabantse Delta.

Kemira is now the patent owner and takes the lead in the further upscaling of this approach. Kemira is a global leader in sustainable chemical solutions for water intensive industries. An important step is a second continuous pilot installation that is now running in Germany in partnership with Veolia. Further tests are planned in Denmark and The Netherlands. Plans for a first demonstration plant in The Netherlands are already being worked out.

“We are very thrilled to get this recognition for our development. Our society is facing a lot of environmental challenges in a very near future, and we really need to speed up innovation in the water sector. ViviMag® is a prime example of how basic scientific insights combined with a visionary collaboration with both private and public partners can lead to radical new solutions for our common future,” says ir. Leon Korving – Wetsus’ lead in the project. Prof. Mark van Loosdrecht (TU Delft) adds: “The project is a nice example of how curiosity driven research in an engineering environment can lead to innovative solutions for societal problems”.