Andreas Fath swam

From the Swiss Alps to the North Sea: During the summer of 2014 Andreas Fath swam the length (!) of the Rhine. For the environment, for science, for his students, and last but not least for himself. ©HFU

Andreas Fath is swimming. He is also researching.

1,231,000 metre Rhine marathon for water pollution control

During the summer of 2014, Furtwangen University (HFU) combined extreme sport, scientific research and environmental protection. As part of the Rhine Water project, Andreas Fath (49), who has a doctorate in chemistry and is also a long-distance swimmer, successfully swam the length of the Rhine – from its source to its mouth. During the four-week campaign, Professor Fath and HFU examined water quality along the Rhine's more than 1,231 km.

Hansgrohe SE supported the spectacular sporting event in its capacity as main sponsor, since it was an initiative which highlighted the urgency of water pollution control. In Schiltach this unique project was followed with excitement. Not least because Andreas Fath is the company's former head chemist. Fath has always been in his element when it comes to water: he has been swimming competitively for more than 40 years. He has now had the nickname Cello for almost as long. When he moved to a new swimming club in Heidelberg, he was jokingly introduced to his fellow swimmers as Marcello Guarducci - the name of a successful swimmer and Olympic competitor from Italy - because both of them look strikingly similar. As a result, he initially got the nickname “Marcello”, which was then quickly shortened to “Cello”.

River survey with scientific objectives

In 2011 Fath, who lives with his wife and three sons in Haslach in Baden, transferred to HFU. There he teaches and researches in his role as Professor of Physical Chemistry and Analytics, specialising in Environmental Technology. Every day during the Rhine swim (28 July to 24 August 2014) he took river water samples, which he analysed for industrial chemicals, hormones, antidepressants, antibiotics, drugs, pathogens and microplastics, for example.

An interdisciplinary project team of around 20 people assisted him with this. This team consisted of students, water experts from various research institutes and companies which focused on analysis and metrology – for example the Water Technology Centre, the University of Bayreuth or the Swiss institute eawag. Initial research findings were available while the Rhine swim was ongoing. The chemistry professor presented the detailed results at the Hansgrohe Water Symposium, which took place for the seventh time in November 2014 in Schiltach.

Environmentally-friendly process: 90% fewer PFTs in electroplating water

Andreas Fath already made a significant contribution to water pollution control back when he was Hansgrohe's head chemist. In 2010 he was awarded the UMSICHT Science Award by the Fraunhofer Institute for his pioneering work on an electrochemical process for reducing fluorosurfactants in electroplating water. The award is presented every year for innovative projects of a high scientific quality in environmental, safety and energy technology. The development of a special filter technology has since then made it possible for Hansgrohe to reduce PFTs (perfluorinated organic surfactants) containing hazardous substances in electroplating water by 90%.

Andreas Fath takes a water sample

What exactly is swimming in the Rhine? Andreas Fath takes a river water sample. ©HFU

Rhine Water – a feat for conservation


©Furtwangen University

  • Andreas Fath, swimsuit
  • Andreas Fath swimming
  • Andreas Fath, monitoring station
  • Andreas Fath riding his bicycle
  • Andreas Fath at the doctor's
  • Andreas Fath experimenting

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