13 November 2023

Following a fire, the lab at the Department of Environmental Change (TEMAM) has been under restoration since the summer of 2020. Now that the restoration is finished, most of it looks the same as before, as nobody could think of any changes they would like to make to the premises.

Two women in the laboratory.
Associate professor Lisa Guntram and Research engineer Kalpana Munnuru Singamshetty. Sandra Hummelgren

Professor David Bastviken, who is in charge of the lab, proudly gives a tour of the premises.

“We all agreed that we wanted it restored as it was. That says a lot about those who originally built it,” he says.

In the summer of 2020, fire broke out in the lab workshop, causing smoke damage to premises and equipment. Thanks to help from colleagues in other LiU departments, but also at other Swedish universities, it was possible to continue work to some extent.

“We were able to operate at about 25 percent of our former capacity. We are extremely grateful for all the help and support received,” says David Bastviken.

High cleanliness requirements

But restoring a fire-damaged lab is no easy feat. David Bastviken estimates that it took 18 months just to make sure that the renovation would meet the high cleanliness requirements. Damaged surfaces had to be replaced, new tables and fume hoods had to be bought, machinery had to be restored, repaired or replaced. All traces of the fire had to be removed.Professor David Bastviken at the laboratory.David Bastviken at the opening of the laboratory. Photo credit Sandra Hummelgren

The lab was originally built in 1985. David Bastviken is full of admiration for those who designed it. The premises allow for smooth passage from the utility room, where the samples are brought in, to rooms for various experimental activities and with varying cleanliness requirements. There are also spaces for many different types of instruments.

The lab must stand the test of time

The tour of the premises makes it clear that not all the clever solutions are immediately obvious. Air flow regulation is better than in many labs, according to David Bastviken. The foundation was built using special vibration-minimising material, which may be crucial when weighing substances with an accuracy of one millionth of a gramme. Gas supply to the equipment is provided by gas pipes in the basement, and there are pipe connections everywhere, making installation in any room easy.

Versatility is as important now as it was when the lab was built; being able to analyse many physical, chemical and biological variables in many types of environment. In addition to precision analyses of known substances, technologies used to analyse unknown substances are constantly improving, which opens up new possibilities. Even though much remains the same in the TEMAM lab, it must move with the times. David Bastviken stresses that the lab must stand the test of time.

The importance of research engineers

This is where research engineers play a key role. They look after the existing equipment, but also seek to develop new smart and cheap solutions that are satisfactory and can be applied anywhere in the world. On one of the tables are some recently made tools for measuring air pollution. Many of the parts were bought from Kjell & Co.A man in a white lab coat.Research engineer Luka Safaric. Photo credit Sandra Hummelgren

“We prioritise research engineers. Infrastructure strength lies not only in instruments but also in people,” says David Bastviken.

The lab, used for interdisciplinary environmental research, needs a variety of skills to function. There are biologists, chemists, geoscientists, environmental scientists, physical geographers, engineers, and even an astronomer.

“This competence mix works wonders. The astronomer’s contribution, together with other environmental science skills, has opened many new doors for us. We have for instance been able to develop a methane camera and new types of drone-based greenhouse gas emission measuring here,” says David Bastviken.

An asset to the university as a whole

The competence mix has also created new opportunities for research and teaching in other areas such as biogas production and waste recovery, drinking water production and land, water and air pollution. In the lab, students encounter the latest research and advanced analytical instruments, as part of their programmes and when working on their theses.

Test bottles in racks Photo credit Sandra Hummelgren He underlines that the lab must be an asset to Linköping University as a whole, and that they are seeking to build strong competence together. The research groups must be able to help each other out if any important research fields are temporarily short of funding, or with determining which important issues can give rise to new research fields. He believes that, in the long term, this will strengthen the lab as a whole.

In addition to this, the lab already enjoys collaboration with other universities and the surrounding society. It is hoped that such collaborations will multiply in the future.

“The environmental challenges shaping our future are enormous, and we need to join forces to face them. We want to develop the lab so that it can make important contributions to this work,” says David Bastviken.

Translation: Anneli Mosell

the Department of Environmental Change lab

Examples of project areas for the lab in 2023:

·         Biogas and resource recovery from waste

·         Climate-impacting gases

·         Future methods for climate surveillance

·         Air pollution and health

·         Halogenated substances in society and nature

·         Safer drinking water


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