Interdisciplinary project with concrete and rainwater

Two Danish Environmental Technology students and two international Chemical and Biotechnical Science students from the Business Academy Aarhus are investigating whether crushed concrete can remove heavy metals from rainwater.

Three labelled porcelain bowls with something that looks like boiled pearl spelt are on a table in a laboratory at Business Academy Aarhus’ Environmental Technology centre. The bowls contain carbonated concrete from IBF, a concrete factory in Ikast. 

Fun and informative

The concrete plays the main role in an interdisciplinary pilot project conducted by Julie Højen and Nanna Laursen, Environmental Technology students in the 3rd semester, and Annika Jordanov and Aliz Kispal, international Chemical and Biotechnical Science students from Estonia and Hungary respectively.

‘Our goal is to find out whether a filter of crushed concrete, which is a residual product from concrete production, has the ability to retain pollutants,’ explains the team.

‘We learn a lot from each other. It is fun to work in this way,’ the four students agree.  

Environmental Technologists perform the experiments and the Chemical and Biotechnical Science students analyse the samples                                                                                           

Environmental Technologists are responsible for the first part of the experiment. They use the crushed, carbonated concrete to clean artificial rainwater with high concentrations of heavy metals such as zinc, copper and phosphorus and then take various samples and measure the acidity (PH). Carbonated concrete is concrete that has absorbed CO2 from the air. In some of the samples, the concrete has purified the water for 48 hours, while in other samples the water has only been purified for 15 or 30 minutes.

The samples are then passed on to the Chemical and Biotechnical Science students who analyse each sample for the presence of heavy metals and phosphorus and measure the PH values. The purified water should not contain too much contamination, as this is harmful to the environment. 

Part of a larger research project

The interdisciplinary cooperation is part of the research project ‘Effective purification of stormwater runoff’ at Business Academy Aarhus. The project aims to find an effective and environmentally sound water purifying method for the local drainage of stormwater, so that our groundwater and streams do not become contaminated. Stormwater that is drained from the city surfaces, from roads and in industrial areas, will be contaminated with heavy metals and plastic softeners, among contaminants. 

Students contribute with useful knowledge

According to Senior Lecturer and Project Manager Bente Møller Marcussen from Business Academy Aarhus, the students’ interdisciplinary work in the laboratory has contributed useful knowledge to her research project. 

‘The results of the project are very valuable because as a pilot project, they provide some good indications and a good basis for how to proceed with the research. In addition, it seems that the carbonated concrete does have a cleansing effect in relation to heavy metals in rain water – we just can’t say how much,’ she says.

Read about Aliz’s og Annika’s programme Chemical and Biotechnical Science

Read about Julie's and Annika's programme Environmental Technology (in Danish only miljøteknolog.)