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Aalborg Universitet (AAU)


Aalborg University was ranked by MIT as the best engineering university in Europe, and as number four in the world. The Department of Civil Engineering ranks within the 100 best on the QS world university ranking. A substantial part of this success is the section of Water and Environment and its ground-breaking research on microplastics analysis. The research group on microplastics has a leading role in Denmark and is an important European player. It has this year attracted a microplastics research funding of €6M, of which the €2M is funding for the activities of the group. This year the group attracted as the principal investigator a very prestigious research centre on Marine Plastics (€2.7M), which will bind together Danish research within this topic.

The group has extensive laboratory facilities and one of the world’s largest capacities for analysing the smallest size fraction of microplastics. It incorporates at the moment 8 PhD students and 2 Postdocs working full time on microplastics, as well as one full professor, one associate professor supervising the work.

The group undertakes various training of other researchers with focus on analytical methods for microplastics analysis, for example an annual PhD course and a training campaign in the context of an Interreg project on microplastic.


Role and Commitment of key persons

(including supervisors)

Prof. Asbjørn H Nielsen PS of ESR11 and SS of ESR12 (20%)

Prof. Jes Vollertsen PS of ESR12 and ESR11 (20%)


Key Research Facilities, Infrastructure and Equipment

We have the following microplastic related key equipment in our research lab:

Two μFTIR imaging systems (Agilent Cary 620/670 with a 128 pixel FPA) including all needed accessories to quantify microplastics down to the low μm range.

One pyrolysis GC-MS (Frontier lab / Thermo Scientific) with the pyrolyzer holding all accessories for detailed thermometric quantification, for example heart-cut pyrolysis.

An ATR FTIR for quantifying larger microplastics particles

An ICP-OES for quantification of elements related to plastic research

An IC-MS and an HPLC-MS to quantify additives and other chemical substances related to microplastics analysis

A well-equipped sample preparation lab with clean air facility

Standard lab equipment such as various advanced microscopes, micro-scales, TOC analysis, and etcetera.

We furthermore have extensive access to sampling sites and sampling equipment, and staff experienced in supporting these functions


Status of  Research premises

University research premises are independent from other beneficiaries and the partner organisations


Previous Involvement in Research and Training Programmes

Each year a couple of hundred PhD students complete their research training at Aalborg University. At the Department of Civil Engineering, some 15-20 PhD degrees are awarded each year. The microplastics research group has at the moment 8 PhD students and 2 Postdocs in training. The funding for the training comes from a mix of public and private sources, roughly divided into 1/3 public funding (national or EU) and 2/3 private funding (national and international industries and private foundations). The training hence has a strong impact on industry, as much of the funding is driven by industrial demands


Current Involvement in Research and Training Programmes

EC ITN: GOVERNANCE-04-2019: Enhancing social rights and EU citizenship and Marie Curie ITN PhD Network

EC ITN: Interdisciplinar cross-sectoral approach to effectively address the removal of contaminants of emerging concern from water” (AQUALITY)

EC ITN: WindMill Integrating wireless communication engineering and machine learning

EC ITN: energy-autonomous Portable Access points for INfrastructure-LESS networks [PAINLESS]

EC ITN: RUNIN (The Role of Universities in Innovation and Regional Development)


Relevant Publications and/or Research / Innovation Product

​Simon M, van Alst N, Vollertsen J (2018). Quantification of Microplastic Mass and Removal Rates at Wastewater Treatment Plants Applying Focal Plane Array (FPA)-Based Fourier Transform Infrared (FT-IR) imaging. Water Research, 142:1-9;

Vianello A, Jensen RL, Liu L, Vollertsen J (accepted). Simulated human exposure to indoor airborne microplastic combining a human-shaped breathing device with FPA-Imaging-µFTIR. Accepted for Scientific Reports

Hartmann N, Vollertsen L, Hansen AA (2018). µPLAST i spildevand – renseteknologiers tilbageholdelse af mikroplast (µPLASTics in wastewater – retention of microplast by treatment technologies. MUDP Project, The Danish Environmental Protection Agency, ISBN: 978-87-93710-92-4

Vollertsen J, Hansen AA (2017). Microplastic in Danish wastewater Sources, occurrences and fate. The Danish Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Project No. 1906, ISBN: 978-87-93529-44-1

Olesen KB, van Alst N, Simon M, Vianello A, Liu F, Vollertsen J (2017). Analysis of Microplastics using FTIR Imaging. Application Note, Environmental, Agilent Technologies, pp. 6

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