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Symbolfoto: Das AIT ist Österreichs größte außeruniversitäre Forschungseinrichtung


Human activities (industry, agriculture) cause pollution of the environment (soil, groundwater, etc.) by chemical substances. Many of these chemical pollutants are toxic to humans and the environment and are carcinogenic or teratogenic. Since each contaminated site has its individual characteristics (e.g. size, (hydro)geology, mixture of contaminants, architecture of contaminant source), remediation concepts have to be tailored for each contaminated site.

Decontamination and remediation technologies may be based on physical, chemical or biological mechanisms. Each technology has its advantages and disadvantages. The great advantage of biological remediation is its very low energy need and reduced input of chemical amendments. However, successful biological remediation requires suitable organisms and know-how about their optimal growth- and living conditions as well as experience of engineering these conditions this at a contaminated site. We develop remediation technologies with a focus on microbial remediation of organic contaminants. We first develop technologies under lab conditions and then validate and further advance them under real field conditions together with our industry partners.

Optimised reductive dechlorination by Dehalococcoides

Bacterial consortia containing Dehalococcoides are able to completely dechlorinate chlorinated ethenes. We work on the integration of microbial reductive dechlorination with other remediation technologies (e.g. chemical reduction with nZVI; combination with surfactants) to be able to better engineer the living conditions for Dehalococcoides in the field and to improve bioaccessibility of chlorinated compounds.

Bioremediation of Petroleum hydrocarbons

Petroleum hydrocarbons (PHC) are among the most frequently found contaminants of soil and groundwater worldwide. We develop and investigate biological methods for degradation of PHC in soil and groundwater. These methods include rhizodegradation (i.e. the degradation of organic contaminants by microbes living in the rhizosphere of plants) and bioremediation (i.e. degradation of organic contaminants by microorganisms in different environmental compartments).

Microbial remediation of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP)

We are searching for microbial strains capable of degrading Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) like the insecticide lindane, its by-products and PFOS (=Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid), which is a member of Poly- and Perfluorinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS). Both substances are listed in the Stockholm Convention on POPs and new methods of degrading these human-made substances in environment are urgently needed. Our aim is to isolate strains and microbial consortia with a high potential for degradation of these substances and subsequently to develop remediation techniques for practical application in the field.

Selected Projects

MISABI Mikrobielle Sanierung von LCKW-Grundwasserbelastungen mit lebensmittel­tauglichen Biotensiden 2020-2023
STIMBAK Stimulation of bacterial dechlorination in the groundwater by chemically produced hydroge 2020-2021
MODELFACE Reactions of chlorinated hydrocarbons and chromium (VI) on nanoscale zerovalent iron (nZVI) particle surfaces: Investigation of reaction mechanisms via combination of experimental and molecular modeling studies 2017-2021
MIKROSYN Synergistic degradation of chlorinated hydrocarbons by microorganisms and zerovalent iron 2016-2018
BIANO Remediation of sites contaminated with chlorinated hydrocarbons by stimulation of the microbial degradation by zerovalent iron 2015-2018
BIOSAN Biostimulation and constructed wetlands for degradation of petroleum hydrocarbons in soil and groundwater 2013-2016