New method for sustainable water purification is taking shape


A new sustainable method for treating contaminated groundwater is taking shape in a PhD study in COWIs department for waste and contaminated sites. Major advantages:  1) No chemicals or bacterial cultures are injected and 2) zero groundwater is extracted.

Several years of research into a cheaper and more sustainable way of treating contaminated groundwater is now paying off.

The project is headed by PhD student Bente Højlund Hyldegaard, COWI’s department for waste and contaminated sites.

It goes like this: You treat groundwater contaminated with carcinogenic chlorinated solvents using an electric current. In practical terms, this means establishing electrochemical zones in the groundwater by installing electrodes in the groundwater reservoir itself.

”The method is easy to implement, no chemicals or bacterial cultures are injected, and no groundwater is extracted. Also, the method is expected to be cheaper and more sustainable than current preventive measures,” says Bente Højlund.

Among most capable and talented research students

The Danish Minister of Education and Research, Søren Pind, recently handed over travel grants worth DKK 200,000 to twenty of the most capable and talented research students in Denmark. This year, one of them went to Bente Højlund Hyldegaard.

Department head Torben Kristiansen commented:

“COWI and all of the staff are proud of this recognition given to Bente, which we also see as an acknowledgement of the department’s innovation work to safeguard groundwater and soil quality.”

Further studies in the USA

Bente is using the grant to travel to the USA, where she will have the opportunity to discuss and study soil and groundwater remediation with top researchers at Northeastern University and other institutions.

“The grant enables me to pick up top-level professional knowledge, both in terms of a fundamental understanding of the mechanisms and processes that drive the degradation of the chlorinated solvents inside the electrochemical zones, and of how this can help to solve an ongoing environmental problem,” she says.

About EliteForsk travel grants

The Danish Ministry of Education and Research sponsors the EliteForsk initiative, which is intended to strengthen and support the country’s most capable and talented researchers. The initiative should help to generate awareness of their results and present them as role models for other young people going into a research career.

The EliteForsk travel grants, worth DKK 200,000, are designed to help provide very talented PhD students with extended study visits to top international research settings.

Twenty EliteForsk travel grants are awarded to talented PhD students across the country. All Danish universities are involved in the scheme.

Get in contact


Torben Kristiansen
Vice President
Waste and Contaminated Sites, Denmark

Tel: +45 56402198