Leuven.Inc seminar 'Emerging technologies and new challenges in waste water research'

This seminar is a joint organization of Leuven.Inc and VUB CROSSTALKS.
Empowered by Flanders Smart Hub.

In the past, the focus of sustainable visions was in most of time on the energy sector and on efforts to mitigate climate change. More recently water and water research have become a major element on the political, academic and corporate agenda.
The management of water and water-related issues are becoming central to sustainable adaptive actions. Hence Leuven.Inc and CROSSTALKS join their interdisciplinary and network forces to highlight emerging technologies and new challenges in water research, to reinforce common objectives for all the concerned stakeholders and to stimulate new alliances.

Practical aspects

Date: Monday October 24th, 2011
Location: Landbouwinstituut (main building 331-01), Auditorium Jozef Heuts - room 00.215, Kasteelpark Arenberg 20, 3001 Heverlee


14h00:Registration and coffee
14h30:Welcome and introduction by Hugo De Man (Prof. em. K.U.Leuven)
14h45:Future needs and trends in waste water purification
Willy Verstraete (Prof. UGent, Head of the Laboratory of Microbial Ecology and Technology)
15h15:CASE 1: Academic Research in waste water purification
Willy Baeyens (Prof. Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Head of the Department of Analytical and Environmental Chemistry)
15h45:CASE 2: How membranetechnology creates new opportunities in future water research
Ivo Vankelecom (Prof. K.U.Leuven, Head of the Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis)
16h30:Coffee break
16h45:CASE 3: V-gas, a new source of drinking water 
Haskoning - Rob Schotsman (Senior Consultant, Royal Haskoning)
17h10:CASE 4: Supporting technologies: new business challenges
Waterleau - Willy Gils (VP Sales & Marketing, Waterleau)
17h35:CASE 5: Future Challenges in the Water Life Cycle
VITO - Peter Cauwenberg (Project Manager, VITO, Unit Seperation & Conversion Technology)
18h00:Q&A - Conclusions 
18h15:Drinks & networking 

The interventions will be held in English 

Participation fee

  • 15 euro (excl. VAT): students
  • 45 euro (excl. VAT): researchers affiliated to and billable to academic institutes
  • 100 euro (excl. VAT): members of Leuven.Inc
  • 135 euro (excl. VAT): all others
logo-kmo-portefeuilleParticipation in our activities at -50% discount via KMO-portefeuille
Pijler OPLEIDING: Leuven.Inc Approval number DV.O106761
More info:


Registrations before Tuesday October 18th, 2011, preferably via the online registration form (use the 'Register' button) or by email to admin@leuveninc.com (including all contact and invoice details).

After registration you will receive a confirmation and route description. The registration fee is payable after receipt of invoice. Cancellation after subscription is not possible. However, replacement by a colleague is allowed.*

* As an (Associate) Company Member you can be replaced by a colleague. As an individual Member you can only be replaced by another Individual Member. When this is not possible, Leuven.Inc will charge an extra fee for the replacement by a non-member.



Future needs and trends in waste water purification – Willy Verstraete
Zero Waste Water :  Short-cycling of wastewater resources  for sustainable cities of the future

We  currently  experience a set of  societal waves  towards  wellness ,  organic  food   and bio-economy ,all  relying on increasing water demands  . Remarkably ,  the  International Water Association  notes  that  water is still not recognized as a priority  in terms of  planetary boundary  conditions , although our current footprint for water  surpasses  the carrying capacity of   the earth  with a factor  5 .
The old  water cycle  is  schematized  and  the fact that  at present  some  2.6  billion people  still have no decent  sanitation   emphasizes  the need  for  a   totally new water cycle  approach ,both at   the  decentralized and  the centralized  level . 
The  ‘zero waste water ‘  approach  water is  possible  and is  mainly  based  on the  forefront  integration of anaerobic  digestion.  The various  techniques    to achieve maximum  recovery  of  energy, mineral nutrients  ,  and  ‘NEWater ‘  as such , are  illustrated .  Their   economic and  ecological  putative  impacts  are  indicated .

Academic research in waste water purification - Willy Baeyens
How to achieve a better water quality?

  • Reduce the emissions of pollutants into the environment. Adequate monitoring of the quality status of the receiving waters allows judging the efficiency of the measures and standards in force.
  • Improve the techniques of waste water treatment. Although many of those techniques exist since many years their efficiency is not always very high.
  • Search for the most appropriate solution when a complex polluted water system has to be tackled.

On the hand of a few representative cases, the benefits and caveats of water protection and water treatment systems are discussed from an academic point of view.

How membranetechnology creates new opportunities in future water research – Ivo Vankelecom
Recent developments in membrane technology, at the level of enhancing the membrane performances as well as at process level, open up new possibilities in water research. A number of them, in which COK has been involved, will be highlighted.
Membrane bioreactors will be discussed first, in their well-known aerobic form, where enzymatic cleaning and magnetically induced membrane vibrations should alleviate the fouling problem, but also anaerobic MBRs are gaining attention, best coupled to advanced membrane gas separations (to purifiy the produced biogas) and nanofiltration (to recycle the nutrients). In addition, membrane-based algae harvesting (to produce biofuels in a more energy-efficient way), reverse osmosis (to remove micropollutants from drinking water), forward osmosis (a relatively new energy-neutral membrane separation process) and pressure retarded osmosis (a membrane process even merely aimed at producing electricity!) will receive attention.

V-gas, a new source of drinking water – Rob Schotsman
Due to climate change and urban development the pressure on the available sources of drinking water is becoming more and more eminent. The search for reliable sources is on going. Even less favourable sources are considered like seawater and in arid areas even the effluent of waste water treatment plants. Also brackish groundwater is considered. One of the issues for treating brackish groundwater is the energy consumption, which makes it less attractive. On the other hand brackish groundwater is widely available, has most of the time a very good quality and does not contain any contaminants. When considering that very often brackish groundwater contains methane, this methane could help reducing the energy consumption. A technique to recover this methane is available.
In the Netherlands drinking water company Vitens started a project together with Haskoning to recovery methane from fresh groundwater by means of vacuum deaeration. The concentrations are so high, that the methane can be used economically for energy production. It is sufficient to reduce the overall energy consumption of the treatment plant by 40% or to let 300 – 400 company cars drive 30.000 km every year for free.
If this technique is applied in a wider range eq brackish groundwater, the production of drinking water based on brackish groundwater could become economically sound and energetic more attractive.

Supporting technologies: new business challenges – Willy Gils
Integrated new energy solutions and strategies enable full scale application of zero power consumption and/or zero discharge sewage treatment plants.

Power consumption optimization is a critical challenge when designing wastewater treatment plants. Waterleau developed the INESS® (Integrated New Energy Solutions and Services) system for large sewage treatment plants (STP) aiming to decrease operational expenditures and to increase sustainability. As a first energy recovery strategy, the organic fraction of the municipal solid waste (OFMSW) will be co-digested together with the excess sludge from within the plant, increasing the biogas production. Cogeneration units will convert the biogas into heat and electrical power. Secondly, the covered LUCAS® STP system allows the installation of photovoltaic panels capturing solar energy. Finally the third strategy consists of harvesting wind energy. The result is a power neutral or self-sustained STP.
Water re-use is another critical challenge. Membrane technologies such as membrane bioreactors (MBRs), and tertiary effluent filtration using ultrafiltration (UF) membranes, have gained increased user acceptance, and are now considered mature technologies allowing capacity increase with superior effluent and re-use. Waterleau designs, installs and operates such plants for both industrial and municipal applications. The result is a zero discharge treatment plant.
Examples of both challenges will be presented.

Future challenges in the Water Life Cycle – Peter Cauwenberg
Water has been considered in the past as a cheap and almost unlimited resource.  The frequency of issues with water shortage, poor water quality or floodings increased over the last decades worldwide increased.  A new concept for water life cycle needs to be developed supported by

  • an increased awareness of the intrinsic cost of water by consumers,
  • the introduction of clever water saving options en equipment,
  • the introduction of simple but effective measures like greenroofs,
  • a further closure of water loops and
  • technological innovations (e.g. membrane distillation, membrane technology,..)



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