The research activity of the Raw Materials Group will be coordinated by the PI with the assistance of the coordinators of the main research domains mentioned in the text.
The functional structure of this research group considers simultaneously the research subarea – which is transversal to the former centres and research groups that have integrated the CERENA – and the physical location of the different laboratories that have a specific and diverse management and institutional framework. The arrangement will be of the matrix type where the research subareas may be developed by researchers from distinct laboratories. The research subareas and laboratories will be linked through the successful research projects.
Whenever a new national or international call for financing new research projects is launched, the transversal organization (researchers within the group) is expected to present to the other members their potential proposals incorporating the researchers with interest and ability to integrate the new project.
This participation binds simultaneously the source laboratory of each researcher who agrees to make available through its own action, or any other form of tacit acceptance, the infrastructures required to achieve the research activities considered in the new project.
Another fundamental objective is the integration of the activity of this group with: a) other groups of CERENA and b) other national or international partners. In the later case , and whenever possible, projects should integrate participants from other country, establishing solid consortia in terms of research, development and innovation, but also of implementation, thus allowing to create solid platforms to compete for international programs of financing of high dimension. The flexible structure described above may also be easily adapted for national and international consortia without destroying the individuality of the group.
The objectives of the group which are grounded on past experience of CERENA’s Researchers on the field of Raw Materials, can be divided into three main areas: 1) primary mineral raw materials 2) primary non- mineral raw materials and 3) secondary raw materials.
In the mineral raw materials we will approach five stages of the cycle – Exploration, Extraction, Processing, Metallurgy and Mine Closure and Remediation- emphasizing on integrated life-cycle approach to the sustainability of primary raw materials valorization. CERENA has already a wide experience in the steps To attain the discovery of exploitable resources we will focus our effort on integration of exploration, geological mapping, structural geology, geophysics and modeling , Remote sensing and geophysical tools to target potential resources will be developed. Priority will be given to systemic approaches that will lead to the development of global comprehensive systems for minerals, including geostatistical modeling, stochastic characterization of resources and reserves. New approaches for a sustainable mining exploitation such as simulation by discrete systems will be developed. Research areas of exploitation and production will be focused in new methods and technologies to handle the production problems of complex geological environments, such as the marine georesources. Robotization, information technology, positioning systems and remote communication in mining extraction will be of prime importance in the strategy of the group in this area. Geomechanical modeling of underground mining and tunnels and the development of eco-efficient systems for mine design is another important topic of the group. Research in the ore processing, hydrometallurgical and bio-hydrometallurgical processes area will emphasize mainly its eco-efficiency in the recovery of the resources through the development of new processes, recovery of sub-products (minor elements and fines) and production of complex concentrates with higher added value and lower environmental impact (this is the main topic of ERA-MIN project starting next year). Research will also consider mine closure as a major component of mine design and planning that must be considered from the beginning and with implications in exploitation and processing.
These developments can be applied to both primary and secondary raw materials. The design and re-design of remediation will also be a theme of major concern in our research, where there is already a great experience in the group. Concerning secondary raw materials, research will have a strong interaction with the Environment Group and Energy Group and will include development of plastic and glass recycling processes, processes to promote the use recycled materials, innovative processes aiming at using sub-products or at improving performance of materials, recovery of metals from electronic waste and from mine wastes, waste water treatment and reutilization landfill mining, solid refuse-derived fuels, waste-to-energy methodologies like liquefaction, pyrolysis and gasification to produce solid, liquid or gaseous fuels.
In relation to the non-mineral raw materials we will focus the group research in the development on the valorization of cork by creating processes to improve its performance and biofortification of cereals which are two strategic raw materials in the National context. We will keep looking for new opportunities for investigating other materials with economic or innovative potential. The group will also keep promoting the development of new materials especially looking for higher functional lifetime.