The system has been patented in the name of GSF and UGT with Ascenion's assistance and exclusively licensed to UGT for commercial applications. UGT, a mid-sized company operating successfully in the field of environmental measuring devices for over 15 years, will market the system to commercial users world wide.
The patented technology consists of a soil retriever that, for the first time, allows large-volume cores of earth to be removed from lysimeters without destroying the existing stratification and structure of the soil. Lysimeters are stainless steel cylinders around 2 to 4 metres in height that are filled with soil and inserted into the ground in order to study the behaviour and transport of substances in soil. Access points above ground allow soil, gas and water samples to be taken, and numerous sensors to be inserted that can provide information on various soil parameters. The stratification and structure of the soil in large-volume cores is also of scientific interest. Such data have not previously been available, as the soil profile was destroyed using conventional sampling procedures. This has changed thanks to the new soil retriever: the soil core is first loosened from the walls of the lysimeter and then cut into ring segments of the desired size that can be examined one by one in a structurally unaltered state.
Lysimeters are used at the GSF to study the effects of global climate change on soil. "But there are many industrial applications for which this soil retriever is of great interest," explained Dr Christian Stein, CEO of Ascenion GmbH. For example, there are applications in agriculture, forestry, water and waste management, or in soil decontamination and the reclaiming of disused landfill and mining sites. "We are delighted that, through this cooperation and licence agreement with UGT, we have been able to find commercial applications for an environmental technology. In this way, the GSF can generate income with its invention that can be reinvested in extending its own research projects. We also see great potential for the development of new environmental technologies at the GSF," continued Dr Stein.
"We have come to appreciate Ascenion as a fair mediator between public research and industry," commented Dr Manfred Seyfarth, CEO of UGT. "As a result of our licence agreement, we can offer the fruits of our successful research cooperation with the GSF exclusively to our industrial partners, and are already seeing considerable interest." The soil retrieval system has already found one successful industrial application, in connection with the analysis of ground contamination.