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Grøn Kemi: Cleantech Emissions Control

Danish industries are currently limited to only a few technologies for emissions control. Research at the University of Copenhagen has created a new process, photochemical air purification, that removes pollution from exhaust quickly and efficiently.

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Københavns Universitet


Green chemistry seeks to reduce and prevent pollution. Danish industries are currently limited to only a few technologies for emissions control. Research at the University of Copenhagen has created a new process, photochemical air purification, that removes pollution from exhaust quickly and efficiently. The first commercial system was recently installed at Jysk Miljørens in Aarhus and cleans 10.000 m3/hr of exhaust air containing high sulfur marine diesel. Due to it's speed and efficiency the method has generated significant interest and is in a phase of rapid development. DFDS, Kastrup Airport, Coloplast, MT Højgård, Landbrugsministeriet and Aarsleff have shown strong interest in the method. Careful management is needed during this high growth phase.

Udfordring og muligheder

Industrial emissions are regulated on the local, national, EU and global level because of their negative impact on human health and the environment. While these regulations are necessary, they represent a significant burden to business in terms of the operating cost and maintenance of emissions control systems, and allocation of permits to operate at a given location. For example, Danish regions regulate emissions from industries and farms. Denmark and the EU have regulations for emissions of volatile organic compounds, particles, and sulfur and nitrogen oxides. The International Maritime Organization regulates ship emissions in coastal waters, and international treaties regulate the emission of ozone depleting and climate active gases. It is necessary to balance the needs of business and sustainability. There is a huge local and global opportunity in this area because current methods of emissions control are expensive and inconvenient. Some manufacturers simply dilute their pollution in order to meet emissions thresholds, however this does not reduce the amount of material emitted. Photochemical air purification, an intellectual property created by research at KU, with patent rights controlled by KU, has been demonstrated to remove complex pollution mixtures from exhaust air quickly (under 20 seconds), and efficiently (power consumption ca. 2 kJ/m3), as reported in Danish and international news (e.g. http://www.ing.dk/artikel/135290-nyt-luftrensesystem-fjerner-stanken-over-aarhus). Due to the recent success of the method in Aarhus and associated publicity, the project is in a high growth phase. Each new sector has specific requirements requiring research and development. Short term, the project has saved jobs in Aarhus by allowing Jysk Miljørens to stay in operation. Medium term, a start up company, Infuser A/S, has formed and has hired new employees. Long term, the technology has global potential.


  1. Demonstration of emissions control for livestock barns in cooperation with Landbrugsministeriet and MT Højgaard. Challenges include removing ammonia and reduced sulfur compounds similar to the smells we currently remove from Jysk Miljørens.
  2. Demonstration of emissions control for marine diesel engines. There is strong interest from DFDS due to new regulations of sulfur emissions in coastal waters put in place by the International Maritime Organization.
  3. Demonstration of emissions control for the medical manufacture industry. Our cost analysis shows that the University's technology will reduce the cost of complying with emissions regulations for Coloplast. 4. Demonstration of emissions control for culvert lining systems from Aarsleff. When a sewer line leaks, current practice is to install a plastic liner in the existing line to avoid the expense of replacing the entire system. Large quantities of hazardous gas are generated when heat is used to seal the plastic into the sewage line; currently this is simply emitted at ground level. A better system is possible and should be developed.


  1. Udvikling/development: Design optimization, based on analysis of the chemical reaction mechanisms to exploit the chemical vulnerabilities of a given class of pollution. For example, some species are highly soluble in water, some can be photolysed using UV light, some are vulnerable to ozonolysis, and some to radical reaction. Each sector has a special set of physical conditions such as gas composition, temperature, flow rate and emissions target, and most importantly, the chemical identity of the pollution.
  2. Uddannelse. At the BSc level, the Department of Chemistry offers specializations for Environmental Chemistry, and Green and Sustainable Chemistry and the technology has grown out of this strong environment including research and education. There is a need for experts, MSc students educated in the chemistry of environmental impact - researchers who have worked on real-world problems. This would occur through the elite MSc program in Environmental Chemistry and Health, and through the MSc program in Chemistry. In addition, each of the projects listed in the previous section is an ideal topic for a PhD student.
  3. Videnspredning. The Aarhus harbor project was the subject of a DR Nyheder broadcast on December 28, 2012, and the story has been published in over 70 articles worldwide, including Ingenøren (link above) and University Post (http://universitypost.dk/article/chemist-s-invention-gets-rid-factory-smells). There is a need to follow up on this publicity and turn it into a successful industry.
  4. Aktørgrupper. Based on the successful shipping container prototype, a start up company called Infuser A/S was formed. Infuser signed an exclusive license agreement with the University in June of 2012 and made their first sale in July. Based on the publicity surrounding the successful installation at Jysk Miljørens, we are currently in discussions with DFDS, Copenhagen Airport, Coloplast, MT Højgård, Landbrugsministeriet and Aarsleff. The project is in a high growth stage where it is critical that the University manage its intellectual property through the responsible allocation of resources. Quite simply, the University should control the development of the technology and if it does not it will begin to miss out on the commercial opportunities.

De danske forudsætninger

There are clear opportunites for Denmark to enhance it's reputation in the areas of innovation and clean technology through photochemical emissions control. The target industries – pig production, shipping, biomedical device manufacture, wind power, are at the heart of the Danish success story. We have seen a shift away from focusing on the 'horror stories' of the first wave of the environmental movement. Instead, priority is given to enabling communities and industries to work together to solve common issues of environmental and economic sustainability.

Effekter og potentialer

The waste processing factory Jysk Miljørens was facing strong opposition due to the bad smells it produced and the environmental authorities in Aarhus were not willing to renew their permit to operate. With the University of Copenhagen's emission control technology, Jysk Miljørens obtained a new permit and could continue operations. Already from the start, this project has helped protect Danish jobs. In addition the company has been hiring new staff to keep up with demand. This is only the beginning and this technology has the potential to create a new Danish cleantech export industry.

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Senest opdateret 05. marts 2013