Research news

Prof. dr. Matevž Dular from UL FS received the ERC Proof of Concept Grant

Prof. dr. Matevž Dular from UL FS. Picture by: Dunja Wedam

Publish Date: 14.02.2022

Category: Researchers in focus , ERC & MSCA, Our contribution to sustainable development goals

Sustainable development goals: 4 Quality education, 6 Clean water and sanitation, 7 Affordable and clean energy, 9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure, 11 Sustainable cities and communities, 12 Responsible consumption and production, 13 Climate action, 17 Partnerships for the goals (Indicators)

With an unique device, it is possible to treat wastewater and at the same use sludge to produce new energy! Developed at UL FS as part of the ERC project CABUM, the new CAVIPHY project will allow them to start commercializing this device, which also offers a solution to reduce the cost of treating the huge amount of waste activated sludge (WAS) produced each year by municipal wastewater treatment plants.

Basic research often leads to unexpected opportunities for their commercial or social use. That is why the European Research Council (ERC) regularly publishes calls for ERC Proof of Concept Grants, which are intended only for ERC research project leaders. The aim of such projects is to strengthen the impact of excellent research by further supporting the innovation potential of ideas developed under the core ERC project.

The CAVIPHY project, led by prof. dr. Matevž Dular, was successful in the first call of the European Research Council (ERC) Proof of Concept 2022. Out of 348 submitted projects, 166 were selected for funding, among them the project of dr. Matevž Dular, which was also highlighted as one of the four most promising on the ERC website.

The global supply of clean water and public health are threatened by the increasing pollution of surface and groundwater. Wastewater treatment plants, which are the last barrier between increasing human activities and the environment, produce large quantities (up to 13 million tonnes per year in the European Union alone) of an unwanted by-product: activated sludge. The cost of properly managing WAS accounts for almost half of the annual operating costs of wastewater treatment plants. Therefore, the wastewater treatment process needs to be upgraded with new circular economy approaches and sewage sludge needs to be considered as a source rather than an unwanted end product. The CAVIPHY project will address this challenge by exploiting the effects of cavitation.

Cavitation is the rapid creation and subsequent collapse of vapour bubbles (cavities) in a fluid. The phenomenon can be successfully used to enhance and accelerate the anaerobic metabolism of sewage sludge, which in turn increases the production of biogas, reduces the final quantities of sewage sludge and pathogens, and helps to reduce unpleasant odours.

As a result of the knowledge gained in the ERC-funded CABUM project, prof. dr. Matevž Dular, and a larger team at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Ljubljana have already developed a rotating hydrodynamic cavitation generator. The advanced, flexible, and cost-effective device functions simultaneously as a cavitation generator and a pump. To reach its full potential, the process needs to be extensively modernized and refined. The unique cavitation generator to be developed under the CAVIPHY project will be an important step in this direction. The results of the preliminary cavitation pre-treatment of WAS will be lower operating costs of the treatment plants and a reduced amount of final sewage sludge. Other positive outcomes: reduced environmental pollution and production of larger amounts of biomethane (renewable energy source).

Dular ERC 2Picture by UL FS

The project team members are also working intensively in other areas of cavitation application and expect that the findings of the ERC projects CABUM and CAVIPHY will be extended to other applications in the future - nature-friendly treatment of drinking water, pool water, hospital water, hydro- and aquaponics...

The CAVIPHY project is only the fourth Proof of Concept Grant funded by the ERC in Slovenia. Before prof. dr. Matevž Dular it was also awarded to dr. Dragan Mihailović from the Jožef Stefan Institute and dr. Roman Jerala and Nejc Hodnik, both from the Institute of Chemistry.

Find more information at:





back to list