Photo: Charlotte Lind

Grundfos Prize awarded to the world’s leading researcher within conversion of waste into bioenergy

Thursday 05 Oct 17


Irini Angelidaki
DTU Environment
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The Grundfos Prize

Photo: Grundfos

The prize was established by the Poul Due Jensen Foundation in 2001 and consists of the sculpture 'Be-Think-Innovate' by artist, Flemming Brylle, as well as a cash payment of DKK 1 million—of which DKK 250,000 goes directly to the recipient of the prize, while the remaining money is allocated to further research in the field.

Professor Irini Angelidaki receives the prestigious Grundfos Prize for 2017 for her many years of research into using microorganisms for energy and other products.

The theme for this year’s Grundfos Prize is ‘Technologies enabling the transition to a fossil-free society’. The prize has been awarded by The Poul Due Jensen Foundation since 2002, and Irini Angelidaki from DTU Environment  is the seventh DTU researcher to receive it.

“I’m truly honoured to receive the Grundfos prize and see it as a great recognition of my many years of work with bioenergy,” says Irini Angelidaki.

Bioenergy always close to her heart
Irini Angelidaki wrote her PhD thesis on biogas almost 25 years ago, and biogas has since—to a greater or lesser extent—always formed part of her research.

She receives the Grundfos Prize for her work on developing microorganism-based technologies as a means to convert waste and manure into energy and other useful products. Her developments include a technology for injecting hydrogen into a biogas reactor and thus capture CO2 and convert it into methane. In this way, the biogas process serves as a storage technology for renewable energy, with hydrogen being an intermediate stage. The process has been patented and is already nearing industrial application. Another patented technology is to use industrial waste water along with CO2 from biogas to produce the chemical succinic acid and pure methane. The conversion takes place by means of energy from the organic material in the waste water.

These technologies are paving the way for a bioeconomy where biomass can replace fossil fuels as the basis for energy and chemicals and thus contribute to creating a climate-friendly society.

“The prize will enable me to go deeper and conduct research into more long-term technologies. Other research grants are typically subject to a fixed framework and tight schedules. But research breakthroughs require time and—sometimes—spontaneity. Now I’m free to take the necessary time to think and create something new in my work to contribute to a more sustainable world, where we use nature’s own processes in a technological context,” says Irini Angelidaki.

"The prize will enable me to go deeper and conduct research into more long-term technologies. "
Professor Irini Angelidaki

Photo: Grundfos
Chairman Niels Due Jensen presents Irini Angelidaki with the Grundfos Prize 2017. Photo: Grundfos.

Cleaner drinking water the result of previous prizewinner’s work
Four years ago, the Grundfos Prize was awarded to Professor Hans-Jørgen Albrechtsen—also a DTU employee. Back then, the theme for the prize was water technology.

“I used the prize to continue my research. It allowed me to develop two novel methods for optimizing the operation of waterworks, so the water is cleaned more efficiently for pesticides and ammonium, respectively,” explains Hans-Jørgen Albrechtsen.

He adds that he was and still is very proud to have received the prize.

“Grundfos represents both production and innovation, so I’m in ‘good company’, which—by the way—also applies to the group of former prizewinners. All have been evaluated, assessed, and selected by a highly competent committee, so it is—in many ways—a great honour to receive the Grundfos Prize.

Responsibility for ensuring sustainability
The Grundfos Prize 2017 was presented at a festive ceremony on 5 October at Grundfos, where, among others, Aaron Leopold talked about energy for everyone. He comes from Practical Action—an international charity NGO whose work includes sustainable energy and the impact of climate change on developing countries.

Irini Angelidaki also held a presentation about her research. In this connection, she said that it is very special to receive the Grundfos Prize, because the prize reflects Grundfos’ great interest in and commitment to sustainability—a theme which also characterizes her own research. She also said that the honour is not hers alone, but includes all the employees and students she has worked with over the years, and who have contributed to the research results.