TU Ilmenau researches automated control of drinking water quality

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Mo. 12.10.2020
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Ilmenau University of Technology is investigating innovative ways of automatically controlling the quality of drinking water in supply networks. A team of scientists from the Institute of Automation and Systems Engineering is developing a digital online monitoring system that detects changes in water quality in the supply network so that countermeasures can be taken if necessary. The research project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research with more than 270,000 euros over three years.

Rostige LeitungsrohreTU Ilmenau

While the reliable and safe quantitative supply of drinking water has been well researched worldwide in recent decades, problems have arisen with regard to the quality of drinking water. Population decline has led to a decrease in water consumption, but at the same time, as the size of the supply network has remained unchanged, water has remained in the pipes longer, which can lead to a deterioration in the quality of drinking water. In addition, any deterioration in water quality is often not detected quickly enough, as water samples are taken on a random basis rather than on an area-wide basis. Laboratory analyses of water quality are also often time-consuming, so that changes in quality are only detected with a time lag.

Portraitfoto Professor Pu LiTU Ilmenau

In order to ensure high drinking water quality and to comply with the ingredients and values listed in the Drinking Water Ordinance, TU Ilmenau has just launched the research project "Online Monitoring and Digital Control in Drinking Water Distribution systems (MoDiCon)". In the course of digitalization in the water sector, Prof. Pu Li, head of the Process Optimization department, and his colleagues are researching completely new approaches to optimally influence drinking water quality online on the basis of measurement data and simulation models. To this end, they are developing a system that allows them to monitor various parameters of the quality of drinking water in supply networks automatically and in real time. Using innovative sensor technologies such as light-based fluorescence measurement and cell-based flow cytometry, they aim to detect and quantify bacteria and harmful dissolved organic substances directly on site. In the event of an undesirable change in water quality, real-time simulations based on a mathematical algorithm will ensure that the best possible control strategies are set in motion. For example, optimally dosed disinfectants could be introduced at certain points in the network, valves could be opened or closed, and the speed or flow rate of the water could be adjusted. At the same time, the population supplied with the unhealthy drinking water could be identified and warned. The German-Israeli MoDiCon project is coordinated by the Technical University of Hamburg, which has research experience in the field of water supply and water analysis. The Israeli Technical University Technion Haifa has been working for years on modelling, simulation and substance dispersion in water supply networks and the TU Ilmenau has proven expertise in model-based optimisation. Associated partners are the service provider for water supply and wastewater treatment Hamburg Wasser and the leading manufacturer of outstanding environmental technology products bbe moldaenke GmbH.


Prof. Pu Li
Head of Process Optimization