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Investigation of microplastic pollution in a Rhine floodplain near Cologne

In river floodplains, microplastic particles can be deposited and also penetrate into deeper areas of the soil. The number of particles detected depends in particular on the vegetation on the surface of the soil, the frequency of flooding and the composition of the soil. Researchers from the Universities of Bayreuth and Cologne found this out during investigations in the Rhine floodplain Langel-Merkenich north of Cologne. The study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, resulted from interdisciplinary collaboration in the DFG Collaborative Research Center 1357 “Microplastics” at the University of Bayreuth.

When microplastics are transported by rivers toward the sea, the particles can be deposited not only in river sediments but also in riparian areas. The research team from Bayreuth and Cologne investigated in the regularly flooded Rhine floodplain Langel-Merkenich whether a larger number of microplastics also remain in areas that are flooded more frequently. The scientists were particularly interested in how microplastics are distributed in the flooded soils and whether they reach deeper areas of the soil. Therefore, with increasing distance from the river, they collected soil samples at two different depth ranges: from the soil surface to a depth of five centimeters and at a depth between five and 20 centimeters. The abundance of microplastic particles and their size were measured using micro-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (microFTIR spectroscopy) after a complex purification process in the laboratories of the University of Bayreuth.

“MicroFTIR spectroscopy is a technically sophisticated technique that can be used to characterize the chemical composition of each microplastic particle larger than ten micrometers in a sample. Even if a particle is as tiny as one-tenth the diameter of a human hair, we can still clearly determine which type of plastic it belongs to. The methodology we have developed for soil samples also enables the analysis of quite large and thus representative sample quantities,” says Dr. Martin Löder, head of research at the University of Bayreuth. Overall, the measurements in the study showed that the number of microplastic particles in the soil samples varied significantly: At a depth of up to five centimeters, between 25,502 and 51,119 particles could be detected per kilogram of dry soil; at a depth of between five and 20 centimeters, there were between 25,616 and 84,824 particles. About 75 percent of the particles were smaller than 150 micrometers.

The researchers also found out why the microplastic particles are very unevenly distributed in the soils of the Rhine floodplains that were studied: Especially in the depressions, microplastic particles can accumulate in the course of flooding. At sites protected from erosion by grass cover and showing comparatively high earthworm activity, particularly large numbers of particles had moved into deeper layers of the soil. “The mechanisms that condition the transport of microplastics between different environmental compartments are incredibly complex. With our method developed in Bayreuth, we were able to detect even the smallest microplastic particles in the floodplain soil and show which factors play a role in their relocation to deeper soil layers,” says Bayreuth doctoral student and co-author Julia Möller M.Sc., who specializes in research on microplastic particles in soils

“Our interdisciplinary approach can also be applied to other floodplains to elucidate the relevant processes. Information from such studies is essential both for locating potential microplastic sinks for sampling plans and for identifying areas of increased microplastic bioavailability for appropriate ecological risk assessment.”

– Professor Dr. Christina Bogner

 

News Operation & Maintenance Processing Technologies

Cost savings through digital hydraulics service

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The CytroConnect Solutions service offering from Bosch Rexroth helps recycling companies avoid high downtime costs or even contractual penalties. The customized packages of real-time monitoring, data-based analyses, and complementary spare parts management maintain the availability of hydraulic equipment such as scrap shears, shredders, and presses. At the same time, the intelligent combination of cutting-edge IoT technology and hydraulics expertise minimizes maintenance and extends machine life.

The reuse of raw materials is a permanent fixture in the economy. As part of the supply chain, however, it also leads to high deadline pressure and, not least, requires seamless availability of shredders, scrap shears and presses.

If hydraulically driven recycling machines such as shredders, scrap shears or presses fail, there is a threat of contractual penalties. If trucks, trains or ships have to wait for the load, the consequential costs quickly climb into five to six figures. Acute shortages of skilled workers and the simultaneous supervision of distributed sites cause unnecessary delays in maintenance. In addition, recycling companies lose service life, material and budget if they replace hydraulic parts on a fixed cycle as a precaution. Bosch Rexroth counteracts all these economic disadvantages and financial risks with the three service packages CytroConnect Monitor, Maintain and Predict.

Flat rate against failures at a fixed monthly price

Plant operators achieve the highest possible availability and service life of components with CytroConnect Predict. Using predictive analyses and detailed status reports, the experts make maintenance recommendations at such an early stage that the affected components can be replaced in a planned manner. This reduces the user’s previous maintenance effort by up to 50 percent. Complementary services such as complete spare parts management with guaranteed delivery within 24 hours further optimize availability. The service fees usually pay for themselves within a year, but depending on the application, they can also be recouped with a single avoided downtime, as the following real-life example shows:

Through predictive analytics and predictive maintenance of scrap shears, an international company with over 100 distributed yards can avoid high downtime costs. Previous downtime costs per case were around 600 euros, plus penalties of up to 100,000 euros per day if shiploads of steel bales did not leave for overseas on time. Wear on the shear is detected at an early stage on the basis of the pressure peaks and torques on the electric motors, so that the operator can replace the tool in a planned manner in the future. The far-flung maintenance staff is sustainably relieved and now needs less time for troubleshooting, maintenance, planning and spare parts procurement. In addition, monitoring saves electricity costs because the system avoids operation with increased energy consumption.

In another use case, a recycling company avoids unplanned shutdowns and subsequent costs through predictive analysis of waste shredders. The shredded waste has since been delivered on time again as fuel to a cement plant. Previously, frequent failures of hydraulic pumps and electric motors resulted in regular penalties and additional costs for temporary storage of the delivered waste. The maintenance department, which was suffering from a shortage of skilled workers, was relieved of this burden in the long term.

In addition to the all-inclusive CytroConnect Predict service, Bosch Rexroth also offers the basic CytroConnect Monitor package, which provides pure real-time monitoring with access to historical data from the last 24 hours. As an introduction to the topic of rule- and data-based analyses, Bosch Rexroth recommends the CytroConnect Maintain package. The service package monitors the condition of components in the background using predefined rules, warns of damage via push messages, and supports the continuous optimization of applications with regular performance and usage reports.

All three service packages already include the respective required dashboards and sensors. Recycling companies benefit quickly and easily from intelligent and sustainable failure protection.

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News Operation & Maintenance Processing Technologies Quality Management

Transparent and efficient processes with QM software

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Focus on user-friendliness 

Working with people requires a completely different understanding of quality than in the manufacturing industry. Social, communicative and interpersonal goals are in the foreground, but at the same time social institutions must also meet business and legal requirements. A well-structured quality management system supports social service providers such as Lebenshilfen, welfare associations, operators of day-care centers or operators of other social facilities.

ConSense’s software solutions stand for transparent, user-friendly quality management and integrated management systems. The software helps to make processes clearer and more efficient, to clearly define responsibilities and to fulfill documentation requirements. At the same time, the management system facilitates compliance with the standards and guidelines applicable to the respective facility. The ConSense software solutions have been developed with a special focus on user-friendliness and the mapping of realistic processes. Employees can navigate quickly and intuitively on the clear interface, and a comprehensive search function guides them directly to the desired content. 

Software-supported quality management saves time

The QM software enables complete electronic QM documentation with automated, intelligent document control. Further automations, such as the targeted distribution of information, the request for notifications and the revision and archiving of documents, significantly reduce the administrative workload for employees. At the same time, the software offers integrated process management including a process editor for simple and fast process modeling. This simplifies the continuous improvement of processes and the transparency and clarity of documentation increase. 

QM software for social institutions with many locations

Management system software solutions are suitable for organizations of all sizes. With a wide range of functions, interfaces and configuration options, they can be optimally adapted to the needs of the respective institution. The IMS ENTERPRISE solution, for example, is ideal for setting up an integrated management system in facilities with multiple locations or complex organizational structures. All applicable standards and regulations are systematically mapped under a uniform interface and compliance with specifications is supported.

In addition to the quality management standard DIN EN ISO 9001, many other standards or guidelines are also relevant in the social sector, such as DIN EN ISO 45001 (occupational health and safety), HACCP (hygiene concepts in relation to food), DIN EN ISO 15224 (quality management in healthcare), KQT (Cooperation for Transparency and Quality in Healthcare) and the AZAV regulation (Accreditation and Approval Regulation for Employment Promotion). An Integrated Management System helps to harmonize these and thus also makes it easier to meet the criteria for accreditations or certifications.

The solutions for QM systems and integrated management systems from the Aachen-based software developer can also be supplemented as required with modules, such as for measures management, audit management, training management and many more, and thus specifically tailored to the requirements of the organization.

Easy roll-out, mobile deployment

These software solutions can be rolled out quickly and flexibly within the company. The ConSense PORTAL is a web-based management system solution for which the company can also provide hosting. The web application simplifies and accelerates the roll-out compared to desktop applications. Since it can also be used on the move, it is particularly suitable for social institutions whose employees work with the system regardless of time and location.

 

 

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News Operation & Maintenance Processing Technologies Water & Waste Water

Microcomputer brings water data to cell phone

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Andreas Scharf, a computer science student from Coburg, uses microcomputers to network elevated tanks in the water industry. This is how he became a company founder in Lower Franconia. Water is one of the most precious resources of the blue planet. Today, the waterworks of cities and municipalities measure all relevant data in their plants to ensure supply and quality, and this is now mostly done digitally. However, only stationary on site. Not networked.

“People control their coffee machine and the light via cell phone. But for the community’s elevated tank, which stores the drinking water and cost a few million euros: There’s no proper app for that!”

– Andreas Scharf

The student found it unbelievable that a water custodian can’t see the status online at any time. So he developed an affordable, modern solution for municipalities himself. That was the basis for founding his company frapp.

Waterworks all over the world

In addition to his studies at Coburg University of Applied Sciences, Scharf worked at Energie- und Wasser-Technologie EnWaT, a water system builder based in Stettfeld, Franconia (Haßberge district), whose customers include industrial companies and municipalities all over the world – with different, very individual needs, focuses and problems. Is there a leak somewhere, did the refilling during the night perhaps not work out? What is the water level right now? Or a question that is particularly crucial for health departments: What is the temperature development? To check something like this, there is often only one option: get in the car and drive to the elevated tank. At EnWaT, the digitalization of water treatment and supply systems has been discussed in a very innovative way, Scharf explains. “It’s not that there are no apps at all. For example, the major control system manufacturers offer software to visualize the data. But then what does it mean when a curve breaks in? That’s what municipalities need.” And that was Scharf’s approach: “I’ll put the data on your phone and also tell you what you can do with it.”

Applied science

He taught himself the basics of programming as a teenager. “There was a book on Java lying around at home – I tried that out.” Back then, he went to Realschule, then switched to FOS, graduated from high school in 2018, and started his bachelor’s degree in computer science at Coburg University of Applied Sciences right after that. As part of the Communication Systems event, Scharf attended an IoT workshop with Prof. Dr. Matthias Mörz and dealt with the very topic that the waterworks are missing. IoT, the Internet of things, makes it possible to network physical and virtual objects.

So, for example, the high water tank and the app on the cell phone. Mörz likes his student’s solution: “It’s just nice to see how he lives the basic idea of applied science,” says the professor. The technology of Scharf’s “HBBox” for elevated tank digitization consists in particular of a circuit board that translates information from existing industrial sensors for microcomputers. It allows the data to be stored in a cloud via cellular or the free wireless standard LoRaWan and, for example, a push message pops up in the app when special events occur. “The municipality has access to the data at all times – regardless of where the employees are. Irregularities can be detected right away,” says Mörz. Digitization helps prevent water losses.

High water tank in your pocket

The high water tank in Scharf’s home municipality, for example, is fully networked. Scharf can access it from Coburg. He looks at his cell phone, frowns “There’s a lot going out right now for the noon hour. Maybe a fire call.” In any case, the waterworks knows: what flows when is absolutely transparent in Stettfeld. Scharf brought the elevated tank into his back pocket. EnWaT, the company where he got a lot of input on plant technology as a working student, is now his customer, and so Scharf’s digitization technology was also used during the floods in the Ahr Valley in 2021, when the company deployed a mobile waterworks in a shipping container there. Scharf founded his own company, frapp, in 2020. He shrugs his shoulders: “The first Corona summer. You didn’t have much else to do then.” He was 19 at the time. Today, he’s thinking about other fields of application for his HBBox: “We can digitize not only in the area of drinking water. I could also cover sewage treatment plants.”

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