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Ecological application of nanosorbents on the base of natural and synthetic ionites and carbons

Final Report Summary - ECONANOSORB (Ecological application of nanosorbents on the base of natural and synthetic ionites and carbons)

The proposed research project brings together European universities and research centres from Spain, Italy, Slovakia and Germany and three participant institutions from Russian Federation and Ukraine. It builds on existing international projects under the Seventh Framework Programme and will enhance the already active collaboration in the field of environmental protection. The main aim of the proposal is to create conditions for mutual research among similarly orientated European research institutions and overcome existing gap between research institution and wood processing industry.
The main objectives are: supporting and improving human and research potential, expanding research cooperation in European research area, spreading the output of the research on the both European and international level. Some of the project outputs are exchanging know-how with experienced research entities in Europe, Russia and Ukraine organizing conferences, creating strategic research plan for forest products based sector, improving tools for research results dissemination and online service for forest based industry sector. Increasing production of wood processing industry within Europe, with limited resources of renewable wood raw material, creates needs for more efficient, effective and knowledge based utilization of this raw material.
Sorbents have been widely used in different applications, mainly related to the environmental field. In this sense, their main use in the environmental field is the removal of contaminants from different fluent, both in gas or liquid phase. Despite the interesting adsorption performances, further researches have been carried out with the objective to achieve higher performances as well as wider the range of contaminants to be removed.
For this purpose, scientists have focused their efforts in joining the advantages of the nanotechnology to the sorbents modification, by developing what it is commonly known as nanosorbents. The preparation of nanosorbents not only involves the size reduction of the currently used sorbents, but also the addition of nanoparticles such as nano-Ag. In this sense, the project Econanosorb has carried out different studies in order to determinate the most suitable process to prepare and treat the sorbents, which are mainly natural and synthetic ionites as well as carbon based, and, thus, improve the adsorption of contaminants. Apart from the preparation and treatment of the nanosorbents, partners also characterised the obtained nanosorbents in order to determine how the selected treatments affected to the adsorption capacities of the materials, and, thus, select the most suitable processes. Results obtained are very promising since the treated nanosorbents show an increase of adsorption performances.
The application of nanosorbents has an important impact of society since their use is mainly related to improve the quality of different fluent by removing harmful contaminants such as formaldehyde. Despite the advantages of using nanosorbents, which not only allows increasing the contaminants removed but also reduces the amount of required sorbent, partners must ensure that the nanosized materials do not pose any threat neither to the human health nor to the environment.
The development of new nanosorbents has shown very interesting results for the market. For instance shungite, a large-scale, ecologically safe, cheap material, is very promising as a support for catalysts of a mixed type metal/shungite, alternative to the carbon-based ones. In addition, developing of such catalysts is of a great scientific interest.
Moreover, the new products would solve the current problem related to the use of current sorbents at industrial scale, characterised for not been economically feasible and would also open a new production market.
The project consisted of the following work packages: Preparation, characterization of nanomaterials from natural and synthetic ionites for adsorption of industrial toxicants; Preparation, characterization and application of combined adsorbents on the base of carbon nanomaterials; Application of nanosorbents for wastewaters and air purification and utilization in nanocomposite materials; Development of a sensor of industrial toxicants and biomedical devices on the base of nanomaterials; Risk and impact assessment related to production and application of nanomaterials in the wood industry as well as Project coordination.
Main tasks accomplished within WP1 were the development of nanomaterials based on natural and synthetic ionites and the determination of their adsorption and desorption properties towards industrial toxicants. Among the results achieved the obtainment of a protocol to optimally prepare the ionite-based nanomaterials, the definition of their surface and structural characteristics and the definition of a protocol for optimal conditions, quantitative characteristics and adsorption parameters of nanosorbents must be highlighted, as well as the obtainment of the dispersion protocols and the behaviour and stability of nanomaterials in aqueous and non-aqueous solvents.
In WP2 work was focused on the development of nanomaterials based on vegetative waste products and their further functionalization. In this work package the main results achieved were the definition of optimal conditions to chemically modify vegetative wastes, definition of structural-surface properties of carbon materials based on mentioned vegetative waste products and achievement of a protocol to optimally prepare combined adsorbents with maximal adsorption towards heavy metal ions.
Within WP3 two methods for treatment of waste waters of furniture enterprises and for their utilization and production of composite materials were elaborated. The first method is based on application of natural clays and zeolites modified by chemical reagents as effective and low cost adsorbents for treatment of wastewaters containing formaldehyde and residues of urea-formaldehyde resins. Based on model solutions, the optimal conditions and parameters of adsorption treatment of industrial wastewaters were identified and presented in the protocol. Additionally, mutual researches of WP3 stimulated development of another new method of physical activation (treatment of sorbents in pulsed magnetic field) of adsorption ability of natural aluminosilicates towards industrial toxicant formaldehyde.
The second method developed under WP3 dealt with production of new advanced construction materials, applying for this purpose natural and modified by physical methods clay fillers of gluing composition that finally results in the low emission of formaldehyde from the final products. Moreover, a number of opportunities for utilization of wastewaters from furniture enterprises was investigated and proposed.
In the frame of WP4 few secondments took place, but the work performed was enough to achieve the milestones foreseen at the beginning of the project. The main objective of WP4 was the study and selection of the most suitable method to functionalize the surface of the nanomaterials in order to produce a sensor to be used to detect industrial toxicants and for biomedical devices in medicine.
In WP5 several secondments took place in order to transfer knowledge among researchers. Fractal modelling approaches for modelling nanoscale particle aggregation in liquids were studied. The joint research involved a critical review of existing literature on environmental exposure assessment of engineered nanomaterials and provided a fractal perspective useful to obtain more representative aggregation kinetics models, and allowing extending modelling approaches to objects of different morphologies. Moreover, researchers performed joint research on formulating a strategy for assessment of risks related to the production and application of natural and engineered nanomaterials from lifecycle perspective. The joint research effort discussed alternative testing approaches and brainstormed a tiered concern-driven risk assessment strategy supposed to reduce testing costs and the use of experimental animals.
In relation to the management aspects of the project, the European partners had cancelled the exchanges to Ukraine due to the current political problem which is considered as dangerous for the researchers. Furthermore, the facilities of Russian laboratories were not appropriated to carry out some of the joint investigations since some activities require of advance equipment, not available in their laboratories. A reorganization of the secondments was proposed and subsequently implemented in order to guarantee the achievement of the objectives set at the beginning of the project. Nevertheless, this reorganization was affected by the lack of funding for the second part of the project, due to the fact that the secondments implemented during the first period did not reach 50% (they were 49%). This lack of funding caused partners to advance money and make big efforts to comply with the expected schedule, although not all the partners were able to make the mentioned effort. However, it must be mentioned that, despite those deviations, objectives set at the beginning of the project were in general terms very successfully achieved.
Different dissemination activities, such as training activities, organization and participation in workshops, attendance and participation in conferences or publications among others, have been performed, what contributed to enhance the impact achieved by the project.