Providing solutions for water treatment and recovering of technological critical elements: from ‘the wonder material’ to new chemobrionics systems


Problem: Water is a vital resource for life, but according with the United Nations, in 2017, an estimated 3 billion people worldwide lacked the ability to safely wash their hands at home – one of the cheapest, easiest, and most effective ways to prevent the spread of diseases like the coronavirus, and despite progress 2.2 billion of people throughout the world still lack access to safely managed water. In addition to classical contaminants, great attention is also given to the so-called “emerging contaminants” (drugs, personal care products, nanomaterials and other substances of daily use). However, technology-critical elements (TCE) which includes the rare-earth and the Pt-group elements, are emerging as inorganic water contaminants of significant concern due to their increasing use, poorly understood biogeochemical behaviour and potential toxicity. However, taking into consideration the supply risk and the relevance in developing new technologies, TCE are also among the elements classified by the European Commission as “Critical Raw Materials”. The development of technologies for TCE recycling from wastewaters and end-of-life products is point out as a crucial solution for decreasing the importation dependence of these elements and to secure their availability in near future.Challenge: To improve water quality by reducing inorganic and organic contamination and recovering elements with economic interest, increasing their recycling and safe reuse globally.Plan: GraphChem will focus on the development, characterization, and application of new magnetic-graphene-based nanocomposites and new chemobrionic systems to remove classical (metals) and emerging contaminants (pharmaceutical compounds and TCE) from water and to provide new TCE recycling technologies. Graphene, known as ‘wonder material’ is well known by its extraordinary properties, and its application in water treatment has a huge potential. However, its large-scale production has still some limitations, making single or few layers graphene, and their derivatives, expensive materials. This highlight, how important is, to prepare less expensive graphene-based nanocomposites that could be used for large-scale applications. On the other hand, today the scientific and technological importance of chemical-garden-type systems reaches far beyond the first experiments that noted their visual similarity to plant grow. For instance, these tubular, self-organizing, beautiful, and complex structures can have reactive internal surfaces with chemical and adsorption properties, they can be extended to mixed inorganic-organic chemobrionic systems or to lanthanoids-chemical-gardens, opening a great opportunity to new and beautiful nanostructures, full of new properties and technological applications. Besides the development of new graphene-based nanomaterials (photocatalysts and adsorbents) and new chemical-garden-type systems, the other innovative aspect of this proposal is to address for the first time the need to develop cost-effective and environmental-friendly water treatment technologies for distinct types of contaminants, and to find alternative sources in supplying TCE.Impact: ChemGraph involves a multidisciplinary team, with researchers from the Departments of Chemistry, Physics and Biology of University of Aveiro, incorporated in different research units CICECO, LAQV and CESAM and an international consultant. Together, they have the skills, know-how and experience in all disciplines (synthesis and characterization of nanomaterials, water remediation; adsorption and photodegradation; TCE recovery; modelling; ecotoxicological assessments and oxidative stress responses; chemobrionic systems) to successfully accomplished an holistic solution to develop cost-effective and environmentally attractive water treatment technology, in route with providing TCE recycling alternatives, which will have a clear impact at internationallevel, contributing to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly minimizing the presence of hazardous chemicals, and to substantially increase water recycling and safe reuse (SDG6.3 and SD12.4).


Universidade de Aveiro (UA)


Share this Project:

Related Projects

We use cookies for marketing activities and to offer you a better experience. By clicking “Accept Cookies” you agree with our cookie policy. Read about how we use cookies by clicking "Privacy and Cookie Policy".