Research projects on environmental sustainability

On this page you will find examples on research projects on environmental sustainability.


Tannins and fluoride can eliminate a considerable part of the environmental impact of slurry

Challenge 

The use of slurry in agriculture has a negative impact on the environment and climate. This is partly because slurry releases methane, which is a greenhouse gas, and partly because the ammonia in slurry evaporates into the atmosphere. Ammonia is harmful to nature and contributes to air pollution in the form of ammonia-containing particles formed in the atmosphere. At present, reducing both methane emissions and ammonia evaporation is costly for the individual farmer. 

Solution 
The project group conducted laboratory experiments, in which they added tannins and fluoride to slurry. Their experiments showed that ammonia evaporation can be reduced by up to 95 per cent, that emissions of methane can be reduced by up to 99 per cent, and that odour emissions from slurry can be reduced considerably. 

The next step for the project group will be to find the cheapest methods for farmers to prevent ammonia forming in slurry. This will be through on-farm trials conducted in collaboration with Jørgen Hyldgård Staldservice A/S.

Further information 
If you want to find out more about the project, feel free to contact Associate Professor Anders Feilberg from the Air Quality Engineering research group at Aarhus University. 
The project is a collaboration with Professor Henrik Karring from Chemical Engineering at the University of Southern Denmark, who is heading the ManUREA Technology research project.

Huge potential in seaweed as a sustainable food source

Challenge 
Major global challenges such as hunger, climate change and declining biodiversity are forcing us to look for alternative ways to ensure sustainable food production. We are reaching the limits of available land, but there is still plenty of space available in the oceans for food production, and for sustainable food production at that. Seaweed can be farmed using only limited resources and is good for the marine environment. Seaweed also contains many beneficial vitamins, minerals and trace elements. 

Solutions

SeaSusProtein 
The SeaSusProtein project aims to find the best way to extract high-quality protein from seaweed and use it in food production. The project is studying and optimising bio-refining of green sea lettuce and brown sugar kelp with regard to protein yield, taste, food-functional properties, protein quality and digestibility. Among other things, the project will examine whether seaweed protein can be used as a climate-friendly supplement in veggie-mince or cheese.

The project is being financed by the Green Development and Demonstration Programme (GUDP).

Climate feed 
The ocean not only holds potentials for human food production but also for animal feed production.  In fact, seaweed can help reduce the climate footprint of dairy cows. The Climate Feed project is developing a feed supplement for dairy cows based on seaweed to reduce the production of methane in the rumen of cows. More than twenty Nordic species of seaweed are being screened to identify the species with the highest effect.

The project is being supported by Innovation Fund Denmark. 

Tang.nu
When seaweed is harvested for food products and animal feed, nutrients are removed from the ocean. This is beneficial for the marine environment, because Danish marine areas are suffering from large discharges of nutrients. It is also beneficial for sustainability, as nutrients that would otherwise have been lost can be harvested and brought back into use in the food chain on land. The Tang.nu project collates existing knowledge and creates new knowledge about cultivation and harvesting of seaweed, effects on the environment and climate, and food safety/security, and it examines the health effects on piglets and calves of seaweed in their feed. 

The project is being funded by the Velux Foundation.

Further information: 
If you want to know more about SeaSusProtein, you are welcome to contact: 

  • Coordinator of the project Trine Dalsgaard trine.dalsgaard@food.au.dk), associate professor   Department of Food Science, Food Chemistry & Technology 
  • Annette Bruhn, (anbr@bios.au.dk) senior researcher, Department of Bioscience
  • Marianne Thomsen (mth@envs.au.dk), professor, Department of Environmental Science

If you want to know more about Climate Feed, you are welcome to contact: 

  • Coordinator of the project Anne Belinda Bjerre (anbj@teknologisk.dk), Danish Technological Institute
  • Mette Olaf Nielsen (mon@anis.au.dk), professor, Department of Animal Science
  • Annette Bruhn, (anbr@bios.au.dk) senior researcher, Department of Bioscience 
  • Marianne Thomsen (mth@envs.au.dk), professor, Department of Environmental Science

If you want to know more about Tang.nu, you are welcome to contact: 

  • Coordinator of the project Annette Bruhn, (anbr@bios.au.dk) senior researcher, Department of Bioscience 
  • Marianne Thomsen (mth@envs.au.dk), professor, Department of Environmental Science

The climate and environmental profile of Danish organic vegetables must be improved

Challenge

The Danish demand for organic fruit and vegetables grows significantly and has more than doubled from 2013 to 2016. Fruit and vegetables are now the biggest organic product category – bigger than milk, cheese and eggs combined. 

When producing vegetables, there must be a higher level of nitrogen in the soil than when you grow grain – even after harvesting. The more nitrogen in the soil, the more the climate is negatively affected. This is a challenge when you grow vegetables. Another challenge is the high energy consumption when the vegetables are grown in greenhouses. 

Solution 

The overall objective of the ClimateVeg project is to document the climate and environmental profile of Danish organic vegetables and to identify opportunities for improvement in the form of, for example, improved fertilisers and cultivation methods. This is done in close collaboration with large Danish organic vegetable producers. 

Contact person

If you want to know more about the project, you are welcome to contact: 

  • Project manager Hanne Lakkenborg Kristensen, Department of Food Science. Hanne.kristensen@food.au.dk
  • The project is part of the Organic RDD 4 programme and is coordinated by the International Centre for Research in Organic Food Systems. 

More information is available here: https://icrofs.dk/forskning/dansk-forskning/organic-rdd-4/climateveg/

Seaweed as fuel for cars

Challenge 

As everyone knows, getting around in petrol-powered cars emits a lot of CO2. So a group of researchers that includes scientists from Aarhus University and the Danish Technological Institute has been studying whether adding seaweed to petrol can reduce its environmental cost. 

Solution 

A group of researchers has discovered that seaweed from the oceans around Denmark can be used to make bioethanol. And this seaweed bioethanol can be used to fuel motor vehicles.  The results of their study show that ordinary passenger cars can run on a mix of 90% petrol and 10% tang bioethanol.  

The final product is the same regardless of whether maize, seaweed or straw is used to make bioethanol. The drawback of using maize or straw is that it’s necessary to sacrifice agricultural land to grow these raw materials – land that would otherwise have been used to produce food. Seaweed-based bioethanol solves this dilemma. 97% of the world’s water is salt water where seaweed is already growing. So there’s plenty of room to grow it.  

Facts about bioethanol

The petrol you put in your tank already contains 5 - 10% bioethanol. 

Bioethanol is a form of alcohol that’s produced for use as fuel, and can be made of a variety of organic materials, including maize, straw, soybeans or sugar cane. 

Additional information

If you would like to know more about the project, you are welcome to contact Senior Researcher Annette Bruhn, Department of Bioscience, anbr@bios.au.dk.

Read more about the EU project Macrofuels at https://www.macrofuels.eu/

An underwater robot that helps us understand climate change

Challenge
The challenge was to learn more about the underground geometries of icebergs and what the entire ecosystem around an iceberg looks like. Three students of engineering were interested in finding a solution that could supply this knowledge.

Solution
The solution was an underwater robot, also called an ROV (remotely operated vehicle).
The robot is operated using a simple and familiar device, an Xbox controller. The robot is connected to the controller by a 100-meter cable which sends large amounts of data and electricity to the robot through an optical fibre cable. In this way it is possible to photograph the icebergs and collect data with several different sensors, all from the safety of a boat. Based on the collected data, 3D models of the icebergs can be made.

Results
The initiative has collected a lot of data and models for climate researchers at the Department of Bioscience which can help them in their research into climate change and how it will affect our future. 

Additional information

  • If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact Robert Søndergaard at NorthROV@gmail.com

Additional reading

MuMiPro: Mussel farming as a tool for and source of organic protein

Challenge
Organic livestock production is in need of a more sustainable protein for its animal feed. Organic feed may not contain synthetic amino acids, and so in order to ensure the availability of high protein quality in feed for livestock, we must look for other protein sources, for example mussels.

Solution
The purpose of MuMiPro is to develop a new type of mussel farming that will provide sustainable protein for animal feed in organic livestock production. The mussels will also help improve the quality of the aquatic environments along the Danish coast and create jobs in areas outside the major urban areas.

The vision is for the MuMiPro-project to generate the knowledge needed to establish an annual production of up to 100,000 mussels from long-line farming, primarily meant to be used in the production of animal feed for organic pig and poultry production and to contribute positively to food quality.

Additional information

  • If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact Jan Værum Nørgaard, Department of Animal Science – Animal Nutrition and physiology     
  • Read more about the project on the website.
  • Financing: Innovation Fund Denmark.
  • Partners: Udviklingscenter for Hysdyr på Friland K/S (‘the development centre for free-range livestock), Danish Agro, Limfjordsrådet (‘the Limfjord council’), the Danish Agriculture and Food Council, SEGES, Vilsund Blue A/S, Engredo ApS, Nofima, Seafood Limfjord A/S, Wittrup Seafood A/S, the Technical University of Denmark.

ProPOTATO: Ingredients and foods based on potato protein

Challenge
By 2050, the number of people on Earth is expected to have increased to approx. 9 billion people, and the pressure on the planet’s food resources is rapidly increasing. Expanding agricultural areas will have a negative impact on the environment, and we are thus faced with a great challenge.

Solution
If we change the composition of our diet so that a greater proportion will be plant-based, we will be able to feed more people with the same agricultural area. Denmark has a large potato production, and the companies KMC and AKV receive more than 1.2 million tons of potatoes every year, which they mainly use to produce starch. Their production leads to a by-product of almost 10,000 tons of potato protein that  contains toxins and unwanted enzymatic activities that make it unsuitable for human consumption. Consequently, this material is currently only used for animal feed.

At ProPOTATO, the goal is to change this and contribute to the development of new and healthy ingredients and foods based on potato protein. This will not only benefit Danish farmers and companies such as KMC and AKV, but will also create a more sustainable and environmentally sustainable way of using potato protein. 

In order to achieve this goal, ProPOTATO will focus on 1) removing the unwanted toxins and enzymatic activities, 2) creating a functional characterisation of the proteins and developing new types of ingredients, and 3) characterising the consumer behaviour in relation to plant-based foods in order to target the developed products and ensure commercial success.

Result
The aim of the project is to develop strategies to help create products based on potato protein for human consumption.

Additional information:
Read more about the project:

WasteProm

Challenge
It is often stated that marketing gets people to buy too much, and consequently, some products are wasted after purchase. In particular, food price promotions like the 2-for-the-price-of-1 or lower prices for larger unit sizes are blamed for contributing to increased food waste in consumer households. But – is it really so simple? The WasteProm project proposes that the relations are more diverse and complicated than often portrayed.

Solution   
The WasteProm project conducted an in-depth literature review of the state of current research on the subject, and a comprehensive empirical study that combines actual waste sorting from households with a survey of the same households’ psychographic characteristics (e.g., habits and attitudes), as well as actual deal share based on their shopping receipts. In addition, the WasteProm project conducted in-depth follow-up qualitative interviews with a subset of the participating households.

Result
The WasteProm project find that the most price conscious consumers actually waste less food than others. Further, ultimately, consumers self-ascribed identities emerge as an important factor explaining why consumers can ultimately avoid food waste, even when buying in a very price conscious manner. Thus, in a more long-term perspective, consumer lifestyles and self-understanding holds an important key for avoiding food waste and maybe also reducing waste overall.

Additional information    
For more information, please contact Professor, Dr. habil., Jessica Aschemann-Witzel at jeaw@mgmt.au.dk.

Read more about the project at the website.

WasteHero - sustainable waste management

WasteHero was founded by two AU students back in 2017 – today, they have seven employees working full time. WasteHero is an IoT (Internet of Things) company that develops and produces equipment for measuring waste containers. So far, WasteHero has developed three products; sensors for measuring fill level in containers, a platform for the administration of data and a navigation system in the form of an app for waste collectors.

Challenge 
Smart Waste Management can solve a lot of the challenges facing modern cities or organisations in relation to waste sorting, such as containers filled beyond capacity, unnecessary collection of half-empty containers, as well expensive agreements with waste collectors/utility companies with a large carbon footprint.

These challenges are connected to existing market processes, and both companies and municipalities experience them. The challenges are caused by lack of innovation in the industry, which has not seen any significant changes in recent decades. An example of an unnecessary process is when containers are emptied at specified intervals instead of on the basis of how full they actually are, which can be monitored by WasteHero’s sensor.

Solution
WasteHero’s solution contributes to making waste management more sustainable by optimising companies’ recycling methods and reducing their CO2 emissions and the costs associated with waste. The specific solution from WasteHero depends on the specific waste issues the client experiences, but in general it includes implementing sensors in the containers that can communicate with WasteHero’s platform through IoT. The platform conducts analyses of the data from the sensors using big data and machine learning. This information is used in combination with an algorithm to calculate the optimal route and time for waste collection. 

Result
WasteHero’s solution creates a win-win situation for both waste collectors and companies. The solution contributes directly to reduced CO2 emissions, lower costs and an optimised approach to waste management in general. So far, WasteHero has implemented its solution in Herning municipality and Santander in Spain with great success, and they are working with several municipalities and companies.

Additional information
If you want to know more about WasteHero, you can send an email to info@wastehero.io.

OrganiCity

OrganiCity was a research project which was coordinated by the former AU Smart Cities, now called DITCOM. The project was an EU project aimed at making the cities of the future more sustainable by combining ideas generated by citizens with smart city technology. The project brought together three of the leading European cities on the smart city area – Aarhus, London and Santander.

Challenge
According to the UN’s projections, seven out of ten of the world’s citizens will be living in cities by 2050. This development will put an enormous pressure on the cities’ resources. 

Solution
Technology must help solve the problems related to the increasing number of citizens in the cities and the resulting increased pressure on the city’s resources. Cities such as Aarhus, London and Santander already focus on using smart city technology as a solution. However, technology can’t solve the problem on its own; in practice, it is also a cultural, economical, legal and organisational challenge.

One of the main points of the OrganiCity project is that technological solutions function as a platform for people who have an interest and want to make an active commitment to creating a sustainable and efficient urban environment. Technological solutions thus make it possible to collaborate between sectors. Through joint processes, they get the opportunity to test out sustainable methods for organising a city.

The project aims at involving the citizens of the city. This is achieved by giving companies, researchers and other persons who might have an interest access to Big Data on the urban environment. Aarhus has experience with making open data accessible, and the city’s platform for open data, odaa.dk, was one initiative that Aarhus could contribute to the project. Based on this data, the cities’ authorities can improve the services they offer their citizens – and reduce the consumption of resources at the same time – and companies can develop new, targeted solutions.

Result
43 different OrganiCity projects in 14 different cities were launched. The project received 423 applications in two open calls.

At the end of the project the “OrganiCity Playbook” was published – a guide for cities on how to implement holistic infrastructure that supports sustainable experiments as a service in their cities. In addition, the infrastructure from OrganiCity has sine been used in other similar projects such as SynchroniCity, SCORE and NGIoT.

Additional information 

  • Read more about the project on the website.
  • AU Smart Cities is a cross-faculty initiative which was established in 2013 by Martin Brynskov. As part of this initiative, the research centre DITCOM, Centre for Digital Transformation of Cities and Communities, has since been established.

If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact Martin Brynskov, Centre Director, DITCOM, Centre for Digital Transformation of Cities and Communities. Email: brynskov@cavi.au.dk

MAGFLY – energy storage

Challenge
A flywheel is a mechanical, rechargeable battery in which energy is stored by making matter rotate. When the energy needs to be used, it is extracted through a generator, and the movement of the matter is slowed down. The flywheel can release its energy very quickly, which makes it possible to transfer large amounts of energy in a short amount of time, e.g. for quickly recharging electric vehicles or starting up large diesel engines on ships.

In order for the flywheel to not lose energy, the matter hovers in a vacuum on a magnetic bearing. The flywheels of today use magnets based on rare-earth elements, such as neodymium. These magnets induce losses in the form of eddy current losses, as they conduct electricity. Ferrite-based magnets are poor electrical conductors and thus result in lower losses, but they are not as powerful as magnets based on rare-earth elements.

Solution
The objective of MagFly is to develop ferrite magnets significantly more powerful than the current ones to be used in e.g. magnetic bearings.

Additional information

  • Read more about the project
  • If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact Mogens Christensen mch@chem.au.dk, Søren Peder Madsen, sma@mpe.au.dk or Henrik Myhre Jensen hmj@mpe.au.dk
  • The project is a collaboration between the university and Haldor-Topsø, Grundfos, Sintex, Danish Technological Institute and WattsUp Power, and it receives funding from Innovation Fund Denmark.