Resources Evaluation & Valorization

Principal Investigator

João Moura Bordado (Professor at IST/ULisboa)

Description

This thematic line of research will be guided by two main objectives: to reduce Europe’s dependence on primary raw materials and to improve the impact on the environment. Sustainable substitutes and alternatives for critical raw materials, with similar functional performance, will be investigated and developed. Moreover, development of more environmental “friendly” materials will continue to be a goal. Raw materials are a major challenge for the upcoming years since many economic activities depend on access to them. European Union has recently acknowledged the importance of raw materials and the need for research and innovation by including them at Societal Challenge 5 of Horizon 2020. CERENA’s researchers have a solid experience in the resources evaluation and valorization, shown by the large number of past and ongoing projects or contracts in these fields.

Evaluation of resources will be focused mostly on the exploration techniques and modeling methodologies in order to access the resources , reserves, uncertainty and  risk of different mineral deposits as well as in landfills. Examples of projects in this field are: PROFERM and PROTERM QREN projects.

Valorization of resources are basically the technological “transfer functions” to add value to raw materials: extraction, processing (CELLMIN ERA-MIN project and POLYCER FCT project) and metallurgy of mineral raw materials and processing (TAINTLESS and VALCAP QREN projects, recycling (RECGLASS and HYBRID PULTRUSION industrial projects), hydrometallurgical (BGALVANIZAÇÃO AdI Project) and bioremediation processes of other raw materials, including secondary raw materials (OURO IAPMEI project) and new materials (MONIFLEX and NEWMAT KIC InnoEnergy projects, GREEFOAM QREN project and FOUL-X-SPEL FP7 project).

This plan emphasizes an integrated life-cycle approach to the sustainability of raw materials valorisation (SUSMIN ERA-MIN project).

The proposed internal structure of CERENA offers the ideal scenario to approach complete life cycle of raw materials. The integration of competences in the fields of Earth sciences, geoengineering and chemical engineering under the 3 pillars of Environment, Raw Materials and  Energy provide the tools to develop innovative solutions and value added for the management of resources from appropriation to valorization of primary and secondary raw materials in an environmentally sound and economically viable perspective.

Structure

The PI will coordinate the activities of the “Evaluation and Valorization of Resources” thematic line (EValRL), with the assistance of a steering committee composed by the PI’s of the relevant research projects taking place at CERENA at any time.

The EValRL line crosscuts naturally all the research groups of CERENA, as demonstrated by the current variety of projects. The bulk of the research will continue to be conducted within the scope of the projects, and the activities of the thematic line will not interfere with the specific coordination of the projects. Instead, the thematic line will offer the appropriate platform for cross-feeding among projects, promoting interdisciplinary in the current research and spooning new research ideas. The EValRL line will try to follow and implement the best R&D practices that, briefly, has the following structural principles:

i) Link to the industry through Joint Industrial Projects This involvement is embodied in Joint Industrial Projects in which companies through joint or individual agreements fund R&D projects in key topics for the companies related with technological hazards. This financing is internally converted in PhD studentships and post-doctoral fellows directly involved and committed with the projects.

ii ) Link to Masters and PhD programs: Earth-Resources, Environmental Engineering, Materials Engineering and Chemical Engineering

The research projects will incorporate the work of Masters and PhD students in Earth-Resources, Environmental Engineering, Materials Engineering and Chemical Engineering programs and post-doctoral researchers as well.

iii ) Mobility of researchers

One important point, fundamental to achieve excellency in research, is the short and medium term internships of PhD students and post-doctoral fellows in other research centers and universities of great international prestige to open new insights to research questions.

iv ) Link  the platform IST Materials

The Platform for Nanotechnology and Materials (IST-NM) was created to promote the transversal development of transversal of the Nanosciences, Nanotechnologies and Materials Engineering field, at the level of research and education, through the promotion of synergies between researchers and teachers in Instituto Superior Técnico. The IST-NM aims, in conjunction with the various departments and research units of the IST, to contribute to an in-depth and state-of-the-art training offer in the areas of Nanotechnology and Materials Engineering, to promote greater visibility of that offer and to congregate laboratory facilities and humans resources to enhance the ability of IST in raising funds for these areas. The EValRL wants to capitalize on the IST-NM structure for the implementation of their projects, by developing partnership with other research centers of the school covering key areas, complementary to the CERENA, for example: expertise in corrosion, expertise in AFM (Atomic Force Microscopy), expertize in membranes materials, etc.

Furthermore the research projects of the thematic line EValRL line will be grounded in CERENA’s laboratorial resources.

Objectives

This thematic line gathers the research projects of CERENA which aim to create new methods, formalisms, and technologies for the exploration, exploitation and transformation of raw materials. The objectives of this thematic line can be summarized in the following main research lines:

  1. Exploration and Evaluation of Resources: New methods to integrate remote sensing and geophysical survey as primary screens for defining potentially favourable resources target areas; Development of new geostatistical methodologies to integrate data with different spatial resolution  and uncertainty in ore deposit models and spatial risk models; Development of integrated techniques for assessment of hidden mineral resources, deep, sea floor.
  2. Mine planning and mining extraction: sustainable methods  not only for the conventional ore reserves but also for the new and future resources, such as sustainable sea-floor mining; Contribute to a new public perception of the mining activities; new mining methods based on robotisation, information technology, positioning systems and remote communication; New methods for  sea floor exploration and mining
  3. Ore Processing: application of geo-metallurgy concepts to ore processing; Development of Biotechnological ore processing; Development of new technological alternatives to process deep sea mineral resources; Sustainable water management in mineral processing; Production of complex concentrates with higher added value and lower environmental impact and less impurities.
  4. Mining closure and remediation:  Mine closure as a major component of mine planning; Waste management; Drainage and mine water treatment; Long term monitoring systems; Highlight the potential of backfill of pastes and new tailings disposal methods; Reopening of closed mines.
  5. Application of hydrometallurgical and bio-hydrometallurgical processes, both to primary and secondary raw materials: Development of new hydrometallurgical and bio-hydrometallurgical processes in order to recover  the basic metals by more efficient and less pollutant leaching reagents; Hydrometallurgical  methods for effluents treatment; Development of ion-exchange and solvent extraction processes in order to separate elements with similar chemical behaviour.
  6. Bio –remediation. The main concern of this topic is the biological wastewater treatment and monitoring:  Soil phytoremediation and Constructed wetlands;  Deepen the removal mechanisms of aromatics from soils and groundwater by vegetation; Phytoremediation of acid drainage; Development of methodologies for plant selection for soil phytoremediation.
  7. Recycling of secondary raw materials. This topic will focus on the following lines: biofuels and biodiesel production; development of new high efficiency materials for energy systems, like advanced materials for clean coal technologies, liquefaction of biomass to convert to liquid fuel; innovative applications of cork.
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