The MICROPOL group of the CES&T brings together several UGent research groups working on the occurrence, analytics, behavior, distribution, toxicity, risks and treatment of micropollutants in the environment (water, air, soil).

Micropollutants (including emerging contaminants) are of increasing worldwide concern and consist of a wide range of anthropogenic and natural substances, including trace elements (metals and metalloids), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), pesticides, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, industrial chemicals, and hormones. Micropollutants are typically present in the environment at (ultra-)trace concentrations. Their low concentration often complicates analysis, treatment, and risk assessment, not the least because they often occur in complex mixtures and matrices.

Research groups

The MICROPOL group of the CES&T currently brings together 7 research groups (and their expertise):

Acronym Research unit Expertise
GhEnToxLab Ghent University Environmental Toxicology Unit Ecotoxicology, stress ecology and risk assessment of micropollutants
EnVOC Environmental Organic Chemistry and Technology Chemical trace analysis of (non-)volatile organics and emerging micropollutants, air and water treatment
CMET Center for Microbial Ecology and Technology The study and application of mixed microbial cultures or communities
BIOMATH Mathematical Modelling, Statistics and Bioinformatics Model-based process analysis and optimisation
PainT Particle and Interfacial Technology group Fundamental studies and applications of physico-chemical separation processes for water treatment
ECOCHEM Laboratory of Analytical Chemistry and Applied Ecochemistry Environmental and analytical chemistry of trace elements (metals and metalloids)
LIWET Laboratory for Industrial Water and Ecotechnology Scale-up of water treatment processes

Representative projects

Sample of recently finished or ongoing representative projects by MICROPOL research groups:

Project acronym Project title Research groups Funding
NewSTHEPS New Strategies for monitoring and risk assessment of Hazardous chemicals in the marine Environment with Passive Samplers GhEnToxLab, EnVOC BELSPO
AQUAStress Aquatic Systems under multiple stress: a New Paradigm for Integrating Aquaculture and Ecotoxicology Research GhEnToxLab BELSPO
LEAD-BLM-Tool Development of a model and software for calculating bioavailability-based environmental quality standards for lead (Pb) GhEnToxLab ILA
BIOTOF PTR-Qi-TOF-MS as an advanced online mass spectrometry based measuring technique for VOCs in the field of Bioscience Engineering EnVOC Hercules Foundation
  Fast liquid chromatography high resolution tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) for high-throughput analysis of bioactive organic ultra-trace compounds EnVOC  
Super-W Hybrid membrane bioreactor (MBR) concepts for removal of micropollutants (MPs) from municipal wastewater EnVOC EU/Marie Curie
  Advanced oxidation of fluoroquinolone antibiotics in water EnVOC UGent
  Screening and quantification of pharmaceutical residues in aquatic environments using high-resolution mass spectrometry EnVOC UGent
BIOTREAT Biotreatment of drinking water resources polluted by pesticides, pharmaceuticals and other micropollutants CMET EU FP7
ULIXES Unravelling and exploiting Mediterranean Sea microbial diversity and ecology for xenobiotics and pollutants CMET EU FP7
KILLSPILL Integrated Biotechnological Solutions for Combating Marine Oil Spills CMET EU FP7
MERMAID Microbial Resource Management and Engineering in the Urban Water Cycle CMET EU Marie Curie ITN
ESTAB Emerging substances – towards an absolute barrier PainT EU Eureka Innowator
Blue Circle Selective separation between organics and inorganics in complex waste streams PainT IWT
  Advanced reduction of organic micropollutants PainT UGent
Super-W Novel NF membranes for advanced micropollutant removal PainT EU Marie Curie
AOG-O3μP Reducing micropollutants in secondary waste water effluent by the use of ozone LIWET  
CW-MICROPOL The removal and fate of both organic (pharmaceuticals) and inorganic (metallic nanoparticles) micropollutants in constructed wetlands LIWET  
Urban Run-off Occurrence and removal of micropollutants in urban run-off LIWET  
  European Joint Doctorate on Sustainable Product, Energy and Resource Recovery from Wastewater ECOCHEM EU Marie Curie
Get-a-Met Groundbreaking extraction technology for critical metals and metalloids from industrial wastewaters ECOCHEM SIM SBO

Scientific papers

Sample of recently published scientific papers by MICROPOL research groups:


  • De Coninck D.I.M., Asselman J., Glaholt S., Janssen C.R., Colbourne J.K., Shaw J.R. and K.A.C. De Schamphelaere, 2014. Genome-wide transcription profiles reveal genotype-dependent responses of biological pathways and gene-families in Daphnia exposed to single and mixed stressors. Environmental Science and Technology, 48(6):3513-3522.
  • Asselman J., Janssen C.R., Smagghe G. and K.A.C. De Schamphelaere, 2014. Ecotoxicity of binary mixtures of Microcystis aeruginosa and insecticides to Daphnia pulex. Environmental Pollution, 188:56-63.
  • Van Sprang et al. (2016). The derivation of effects threshold concentrations of lead for European freshwater ecosystems. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (in press).



  • Vergeynst, L.; Van Langenhove, H. and Demeestere, K. (2015). Balancing the false negative and positive rates in suspect screening with high-resolution Orbitrap mass spectrometry using multivariate statistics. Analytical Chemistry, 87(4), 2170-2177.
  • Walgraeve, C.; Chantara, S.; Sopajaree, K.; De Wispelaere, P.; Demeestere, K. and Van Langenhove, H. (2015). Quantification of PAHs and oxy-PAHs on airborne particulate matter in Chiang Mai, Thailand, using gas chromatography high resolution mass spectrometry. Atmospheric Environment, 107, 262-272.
  • Van Doorslaer, X.; Haylamicheal, I.D.; Dewulf, J.; Van Langenhove, H.; Janssen, C.R. and Demeestere, K. (2015). Heterogeneous photocatalysis of moxifloxacin: chemical transformation and ecotoxicity. Chemosphere, 119, S75-S80.



  • Scoma, A., Barbato, M., Hernandez-Sanabria, E., Mapelli, F., Daffonchio, D., Borin, S., & Boon, N. 2016. Microbial oil-degradation under mild hydrostatic pressure (10 MPa): which pathways are impacted in piezosensitive hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria? Scientific Reports. 6.
  • De Roy, K., Marzorati, M., Van den Abbeele, P., Van de Wiele, T., & Boon, N. 2014. Synthetic microbial ecosystems: an exciting tool to understand and apply microbial communities. Environmental Microbiology. 16: 1472-1481.
  • Benner, J., Helbling, D. E., Kohler, H. P., Wittebol, J., Kaiser, E., Prasse, C., Ternes, T. A., Albers, C. N., Aamand, J., Horemans, B., Springael, D., Walravens, E., & Boon, N. 2013. Is biological treatment a viable alternative for micropollutant removal in drinking water treatment processes? Water Research. 47: 5955-5976.



  • T.O. Mahlangu, E.M.V. Hoek, B.B. Mamba and A.R.D. Verliefde, Influence of organic, colloidal and combined fouling on NF rejection of NaCl and carbamazepine: Role of solute-foulant-membrane interactions and cake-enhanced concentration polarization, Journal of Membrane Science 471 (2014) 35-46.
  • M. Vanoppen, A.F.A.M. Bakelants, D. Gaublomme, K.V.K.M. Schoutteten, J. Vanden Bussche, L. Vanhaecke and A.R.D. Verliefde, Properties governing the transport of trace organic contaminants through ion-exchange membranes, Environmental Science and Technology 49 (2015) 489-497.
  • C. Bertelkamp, J.P. van der Hoek, K. Schoutteten, L. Hulpiau, L. Vanhaecke, J. Vanden Bussche, A.J. Cabo, C. Callewaert, N. Boon, J. Löwenberg, N. Singhal and A.R.D. Verliefde, The effect of feed water dissolved organic carbon concentration and composition on organic micropollutant removal and microbial diversity in soil columns simulating river bank filtration, Chemosphere 144 (2016) 932-939.



  • Chys, M., Oloibiri, V. A., Audenaert, W. T., Demeestere, K., & Van Hulle, S. W.H. (2015). Ozonation of biologically treated landfill leachate: efficiency and insights in organic conversions. Chemical Engineering Journal, 277, 104-111.
  • Daels, N., Radoicic, M., Radetic, M., De Clerck, K., Van Hulle, S.W.H. (2015). Electrospun nanofibre membranes functionalised with TiO2 nanoparticles: Evaluation of humic acid and bacterial removal from polluted water. Separation and Purification Technology, 149, 488-494.
  • Wim Audenaert, Michael Chys, Hannele Auvinen, Ann Dumoulin, Diederik Rousseau and Stijn Van Hulle (2014). (Future) regulation of trace organic compounds in WWTP effluents as a driver of advanced wastewater treatment. OZONE NEWS. 42(6). p.17-23.



  • Nicomel, N.R., Leus, K., Folens, K., Van Der Voort, P., Du Laing, G. (2016). Technologies for Arsenic Removal from Water: Current Status and Future Perspectives. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13, 62.
  • Vandecasteele, B., Quataert, P., Piesschaert, F., Lettens, S., De Vos, B., Du Laing, G. (2015). Translocation of Cd and Mn from bark to leaves in willow during marsh to woodland transition on polluted sediments: delayed budburst is related to high Mn concentrations. Land, 4, 255-280.
  • Van Koetsem, F., Geremew, T.T., Wallaert, E., Verbeken, K., Van der Meeren, P. & Du Laing, G. (2015). Fate of engineered nanomaterials in surface water: factors affecting interactions of Ag and CeO2 nanoparticles with (re)suspended sediments. Ecological Engineering, 80, 140-150.