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Recent and finished projects

PlasticTrace "Metrological traceability of measurement data from nano- to small-microplastics for a greener environment and food safety" 2022 – 2025


Plastic Trace Logo

PlasticTrace aims to address the urgent need for development and harmonisation of methods for the chemical identification, physical characterisation and quantification of released small micro/nanoplastics (SMPs/NPs) in drinking water, food and environmental matrices, as required by the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP).

In this context, hyphenated and complementary analytical approaches will be developed, optimised, compared and harmonised, leading to the establishment of metrological traceability of measurements through robust validation studies. Novel and environmentally relevant SMP/NP reference materials will be developed within the project. International cooperation with key stakeholders globally will be considered as the basis for a European Metrology network.

Hereon will contribute to the development of new sampling, fractionation and detection methods for small microplastic in different relevant matrices using recently developed methods based on new techniques such as Quantum Cascade Laser Based FTIR Imaging or Mass Spectrometry.

Further information

MetroPOEM "Metrology for the harmonisation of measurements of environmental pollutants in Europe" 2022 – 2025


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European Green Deal’s ambition for zero pollution requires the development of highly sensitive techniques to detect ultra-low amounts of pollutants and to determine their isotope ratios. Mass spectrometry is a key method for non-radioactive polluting elements determination and is of increasing importance for long-lived radionuclides. This project will bridge the gap between both methods and will establish new tools for tracing pollutants. Measurement uncertainties and detection limits will be significantly reduced using newly developed reference materials and SI-traceable measurement procedures with an immediate impact for tracking pollution sources by commonly available mass spectrometers.

Hereon will support the development of new sensitive methods for the quantification of environmental critical elements such as Cr, Cd, Ni, Sb or Pb in different natural waters such as sea water. In addition Hereon is involved in the development of a new Certified Reference Material for inorganic pollutants in sea water. Such Materials are mandatory to validate the accuracy of analytical methods as well as to make data series from different studies traceable and comparable, which is in particular essential for long term environmental investigations.

Further information

Anemoi "Chemical emissions from offshore wind farms: Assessing impacts, gaps and opportunities" 2023 – 2026


Interreg North Sea Logo 2022 Rgb Anemoi 2365x390px

The Interreg North Sea Project”Anemoi” studies the chemical emissions from offshore wind farms (OWFs) and their impact on marine ecosystems and aquaculture. The environmental impact of OWFs in the North Sea is routinely monitored regarding the effect of novel habitat introduction, underwater noise or the exclusion of fisheries. However, the potential chemical contamination with dissolved and particulate pollutants from the wind turbines, e.g. from the corrosion protection systems, remains largely unknown. Anemoi aims: (1) to identify relevant chemical emissions of known and unknown pollutants from OWFs, (2) to assess the effect on ecosystem and aquaculture activities, (3) to review current regulations, and (4) to propose solutions and opportunities to reduce chemical emissions from OWFs.

The international consortium consists of Partners from Belgium (EV ILVO , RBINS, POM West-Vlaanderen, Antwerp University), Norway (SINTEF Ocean), Denmark (DTU Wind), The Netherlands (NIOZ), France (Ifremer) and Germany (BSH, any), Hereon , TU Braunschweig).

Poster Anemoi project (1,2 MB)

CTM-Elbe “Contaminant transport modelling in the Elbe river” 2022-2025


CTM-Elbe (Contaminant transport modelling in the Elbe river) is a cooperative project of the Federal Waterways Engineering and Research Institute (BAW) and the Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon. The aim of this project is the further development of already existing numerical methods for the 3D simulation of transport pathways and quantities of relevant pollutants such as heavy metals (cadmium, mercury, copper and zinc) pesticides (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and metabolites (DDD, DDE), hexachlorobenzene (HCB)) or industrial chemicals (polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB's)). For the further development of these methods, a solid data basis should be established with respect to the partitioning of the pollutants between the different Elbe river compartments. 3D simulations will help in the approval of sediment management measures of the Elbe river channel especially with regard to the implementation of the Water Framework Directives (WFD) or Marine Strategy Directives (MSFD) in the future. With a growing environmental awareness, the relevance of precise predictions of possible pollutant distributions through sediment management measures is also expected to become increasingly important.

The Department of Inorganic Environmental Chemistry of the Institute of Coastal Environmental Chemistry at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Heron will contribute methods for the analysis of pollutants in the different compartments of the Elbe river by ICP-MS/MS and GC-MS/MS as well as plan and perform laboratory experiments and elaborate the conceptual design of campaigns for sampling the Elbe river. The data collected in this course will be processed to data sets to ensure a further development of the already existing numerical methods to more precise 3D simulations in close cooperation with the BAW and to validate them.

RETAKE „CO2- removal by alkalinity enhancement: potential, benefits and risks“ 2021-2024


Retake Visual Graphic English

Visual graphic: Position of the research consortium RETAKE within the research mission CDRmare

The research consortium RETAKE is part of the research mission of the German Marine Research Alliance (DAM) „Marine carbon sinks in decarbonisation pathways“ (CDRmare). RETAKE investigates potential, feasibility and possible side effects of marine alkalinity enhancement (AE). Increasing the ocean’s alkalinity – that is, the buffer capacity towards acids – results in sustainable storage of CO2 while at the same time counteracting ocean acidification. One way of achieving this is by artificially enhancing the natural process of silicate weathering, which naturally cools the earth’s climate down only over the course of thousands of years. Overall, AE is a method of climate engineering, which can lessen the consequences of anthropogenic climate change reliably and sustainably.

Within this project, the Department of Inorganic Environmental Chemistry aims for identifying and tracking the sources of alkalinity using element fingerprinting and non traditional stable isotopes. The goal is being able to distinguish the added alkalinity from the highly variable background of natural alkalinity in the North Sea and Baltic Sea. In addition, the release of heavy metals is investigated, since it could have negative side effects on ecosystems. In order to get an integral view of the method, weathering experiments using olivine will be conducted in the own labs, in addition to analyzing samples from RETAKE project partners’ experiments and environmental samples from North Sea and Baltic Sea.

Further information

H2Mare 2021 - 2025


Projektträger Jülich im Auftrag des BMBF

Visual graphic (Projektträger Jülich on behalf of the BMBF)

H2Mare is one of three hydrogen flagship projects that are funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with a total of up to 740 Mio. Euros. In H2Mare, the generation of green hydrogen and downstream products with offshore wind power will be investigated within four years together with around 32 partners from science and industry. With four of its institutes, the Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon supports technology development for sustainable and environmentally friendly energy production.

The Institute of Coastal Environmental Chemistry contributes mainly chemical-analytical knowledge for the investigation of pollutants in marine environmental samples and thus helps to name possible emissions of the offshore platforms, such as (heavy) metals or organic pollutants, at an early stage. In the course of the project, a monitoring concept for potential emissions from the offshore production of hydrogen and power-to-x downstream products (e.g. methanol or ammonia) will be developed in order to be able to make a statement about the environmental impact of these plants.

Further information

MetroCycleEU Projekt "Metrology for the recycling of technology critical elements to support Europe’s circular economy agenda" 2021 - 2024


MetroCycle logo

The MetroCycleEU project was established to enable the representative, SI-traceable determination of TCEs in the µg/g range in urban e-waste. For this purpose, transferable analytical methods and suitable reference materials will be established in the course of the project in order to contribute to the improvement of the recycling of TCEs in the context of the circular economy.

Hereon, in close collaboration with 14 partners from across Europe, will contribute to the development of new, fast and reliable analytical methods as well as to the design of sampling and sample preparation strategies. Subsequently, the knowledge gained can be used in the respective recycling economies to determine the cost-effectiveness of urban e-waste on the one hand, and to decide on recycling routes or develop new recycling and environmental impact assessment on the other hand.

Further information

CARBOSTORE Projekt "Carbon Storage in German Coastal Seas – Stability, Vulnerability and Perspectives for Manageability" 2021 - 2024


Probenahme morgens auf dem Janssand

Sampling in the morning on Janssand (Photo: Anna Przibilla/Hereon)

CARBOSTORE is a joint project funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the research program "MARE: N - Coastal, Marine and Polar Research for Sustainability” under the umbrella of the Research Framework Program“ Research for Sustainable Development” (FONA). The main objectives of CARBOSTORE are to investigate and assess the stability and vulnerability of different carbon reservoirs in the North Sea and Baltic Sea. Based on the results, perspectives will be developed aiming at the targeted enhancement of carbon storage in the North and Baltic Seas, i.e., net negative CO2 emissions.

In work package 2, the Department of Inorganic Environmental Chemistry is responsible for sampling and measuring redox-active and toxicologically relevant metals in pore water, sediment and the overlying water column. In collaboration with the Department of Aquatic Nutrient Cycles, the aim is to determine how biotic and abiotic transformation and remineralization processes mobilize heavy metals which are present in the sediment. From this, the influence of released metals on biotic transformation processes (ammonification, nitrification, and denitrification) and the fluxes of released metals into the water column will be quantified.
Further information

I2B Projekt BED „Big Environmental Data Handling“ 2019 - 2022


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Offshore Wind Farm (Photo: Sabine Billerbeck/Hereon)

Investigations of complex pollutant transport and transformation processes in the land-river-sea continuum are subject to complex interactions and form an important basis for the treatment of defined research topics and fields of work. The underlying, constantly growing large-scale and complex data sets, as well as time series or georeferenced data sets on nutrients and pollutants, as well as expected future isotope data require the development of new, innovative approaches for rapid data evaluation, their quality assurance and visualization.
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OffChEm & OffChEm II 2017 – 2023


aerial view of an offshore wind farm

Offshore Wind Farm (Photo: Sabine Billerbeck/Hereon)

The progressive expansion of offshore wind energy in the North Sea and Baltic Sea is accompanied by an increasing intrusion into the marine environment. More than 1,500 offshore wind turbines and at least 20 converter and transformer platforms have already been erected (as of December 2021). Each offshore installation represents an intervention in the marine environment. Material releases from these installations have hardly been investigated to date. The main issues here are the necessary measures for corrosion protection and the use of operational materials. Scientific knowledge about the quantities released and their distribution in the respective environmental compartments (water, sediment, biota) is currently scarce. A comprehensive assessment of the effects on the marine environment is therefore only possible to a limited extent based on current knowledge.
Further information

EU EMRP Project ENV08 2011-2014: Traceable measurements of emerging pollutants


Map ENV08 Project partner (Map: Adriana Gonzalez Gago/Hereon)

The Joint Research Project (JRP) ENV08 “Traceable measurements for monitoring critical pollutants under the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) 2000/60/EC” is a multi-partner trans-national project within the targeted call “Environment” of the European Metrology Research Programme (EMRP). The objective of our contribution is the provision of a metrologically validated, highly sensitive procedure of measurement for the brominated diphenyl ethers BDE on the basis of its specific Element. Further information

DAAD project: Metal exposure and associated effects in mussels


Mussels in a Marina (Photo: Heike Helmholz)

Within this bilateral funding of project-related exchange of scientists with the "Laboratory for Biological Effects of Metals" at the Institute Ruđer Bošković, Zagreb analytical methods and experiences have been exchanged. Objects of this project were the analysis of the mussel tissue contamination with heavy metals especially in marinas and harbours and associated, measureable physiological alterations in natural mussel populations. Further information