SIGN-2 - Sino-German water supply Network

German-Chinese cooperation for clean water from the source to the tap
Subproject: A sustainable developed in vitro metabolization product for ecotoxicological evaluation of samples from the Taihu region -EWO

Project duration: 2018–2021

Funding: BMBF

Principle investigator at the RWTH Aachen / Goethe University Frankfurt
  • Prof. Dr. Henner Hollert

Co-coordination and Research fellows at the RWTH Aachen / Goethe University
  • Dr. Andreas Schiwy (Co-PI, Research Fellow)
  • Dr. Yunlu Jia
  • M.Sc. Feifei Xue (Research Fellow)

Coordinators of the joint project Sign 2
  • Prof. Dr. Andreas Tiehm, Dr. Anna-Lena Schneider, DVGW- Technologie Zentrum Wasser (TZW), Karlsruhe

Project partner
  • Prof. Dr. Andreas Tiehm, DVGW- Technologie Zentrum Wasser (TZW)
  • Axel Sacharowitz, 3S Antriebe
  • Dipl. Ing. Ingo Kropp, 3S Consult GmbH
  • Christian Moldaenke, BBE Moldaenke GmbH
  • Edmund Riehle, F.A.S.T GmbH
  • Dr. Stephan Küppers, Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH
  • Dr. Florian Eichinger, Hydroisotop GmbH
  • Christian Staaks, inge GmbH
  • Dr. Tim aus der Beek, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wasserforschung (IWW)
  • Prof. Dr. Stefan Norra, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
  • Dr. Florian Meier, Postnova Analytics GmbH
  • Dr. habil. Lars Däehne, Surflay nanotec GmbH
  • Dr. Andreas Korth, Dr. Wido Schmidt, DVGW-Technologie Zentrum Wasser (TZW)

Project webpage:

Project description

Clean drinking water is one of the most important issues of mankind implying ecological as well as social and economic questions. The Chinese authorities are aware of the increasing difficulties to provide their people, agriculture and industry with safe drinking water. To tackle these challenges German experience and technologies are already highly acknowledged in China for their problem-solving capacity and their technical reliability. There is a constantly high demand for the transfer of German technology to China and for joint research projects of Chinese and German partners from academia and industry to find new solutions for the still persisting problems within the areas of resource protection, drinking water treatment as well as drinking water distribution. Thus, drinking water quality itself and its safe transport to the end user are important but not the only aspects of the intended R&D-project SIGN-2. Resource protection implying reduced pollution of raw water sources in the future should decrease the treatment intensity needed to obtain safe drinking water.
In short, the tasks of SIGN-2 will cover

  • the Tai lake (Taihu) as nowadays heavily impaired raw water resource with a detailed view on pollutant exchange dynamics during water-sediment mixing processes affecting raw water quality significantly
  • drinking water treatment with innovative dense coated membranes and optimized (in terms of water quality and energy efficiency) treatment chains
  • drinking water distribution with new integral asset management via software tools integrating flushing, leakage detection and valve maintenance data
  • dissemination and training in the two focus regions of the Chinese Mega Water Program within the frame of the 13th Chinese 5-year plan: the Taihu and Beijing region
  • entry of German enterprises to the Chinese market via pilot demonstration and market implementation activities

In Germany partners from industry (predominantly SMEs) as well as from research institutes will work together during the planned R&D project in order to achieve both 1) advancement against the current state of the art and 2) practical applicability of the developed solutions. Collaboration partners in China are the leading research institutes as well as the relevant authorities and stakeholders ensuring the sustainable implementation of the project results in China.
In the subproject at the RWTH Aachen / Goethe University an innovative effect-based monitoring system combined with a biotechnological metabolic system will be applied. The testing strategy comprises of in vitro effect-based methods e.g. Ames fluctuation test, Micronucsleus test, Micro-EROD test, ERα-CALUX® test and H295R-S test. In the biotechnological metabolic system, an animal-free component called ewoS9R used to simulate metabolic changes in metabolic-deficient in vitro test, which is based on serum-free growing suspension liver cell lines and is transformed by an innovation methodology. Due to the chemically defined process without animals involved, the newly developed monitoring system not only reduce the amount of animal derived products (generally S9 rat liver homogenate) used in experiments, but also improve the quality and predictive capacity and then provide a more accurate evaluation report.
Therefore, as the sub-project of SIGN2, the purposes of this project are: 1) develop and validate the in vitro effect-based methods for the implementation of a biotechnological metabolization system by the comparison with S9 rat liver homogenate, and then 2) investigate comprehensive ecotoxicological risk in Taihu region by multiple samples including raw water, sediments, surface water and drinking water after treatment in a battery of toxicological and ecotoxicological test systems with the new biotechnological metabolization system and conventional S9 obtained from animals.

  • Jia, Y., Chen, Q., Crawford, S.E., Song, L., Chen, W., Hammers-Wirtz, M., Strauss, T., Seiler, T.-B., Schäffer, A., Hollert, H., 2019a. Cyanobacterial blooms act as sink and source of endocrine disruptors in the third largest freshwater lake in China. Environ. Pollut. 245, 408-418.
  • Jia, Y., Hammers-Wirtz, M., Crawford, S.E., Chen, Q., Seiler, T.-B., Schäffer, A., Hollert, H., 2019b. Effect-based and chemical analyses of agonistic and antagonistic endocrine disruptors in multiple matrices of eutrophic freshwaters. Sci. Total Environ. 651, 1096-1104.
  • Jia, Y., Schmid, C., Shuliakevich, A., Hammers-Wirtz, M., Gottschlich, A., der Beek, T.a., Yin, D., Qin, B., Zou, H., Dopp, E., Hollert, H., 2019c. Toxicological and ecotoxicological evaluation of the water quality in a large and eutrophic freshwater lake of China. Sci. Total Environ. 667, 809-820.
  • Tiehm, A., Hollert, H., Yin, D., Zheng, B., 2020. Tai Hu (China): Water quality and processes - From the source to the tap. Science of The Total Environment 712, 135559.


Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Henner Hollert

Goethe University Frankfurt
Biologicum, Campus Riedberg
Max-von-Laue-Str. 13
60438 Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Room: 3.319
Phone: +49 (0)69 798 42171
Fax: +49 (0)69 798 42161
Email: hollert(at)bio(dot)uni-frankfurt(dot)de

Former Affiliation: