Two LEQUIA researchers, Dr Alba Cabrera Codony and Dr Raquel García Pacheco, are carrying out an applied research project at Cabot Corporation (USA) and University of New South Wales (Australia)
TECNIOspring+ programme is co-funded by ACCIÓ and by the European Union through Marie Sklodowska Curie actions
LEQUIA research group of University of Girona is collaborating with leading global specialty chemicals and performance materials company Cabot Corporation based in Boston (USA) and with the University of New South Wales (UNSW), one Australian leading teaching and research university, thanks to two postdoctoral fellowships of TECNIOspring+ programme by ACCIÓ.
We refer to projects “SilCap” led by Dr Alba Cabrera Codony and “Mem 2.0” led by Dr Raquel García Pacheco. Both of them have as starting point consolidated research lines at LEQUIA within the water field: for SilCap, removal of siloxanes by adsorption/oxidation processes in biogas from wastewater treatment plants; and for Mem 2.0, wastewater treatment by means of membrane bioreactors jointly with environmental decision support systems. Nevertheless, while Mem 2.0 technology – recycled membranes – is still devoted to water treatment, SilCap technology – new adsorption materials to capture methylsiloxane – makes an innovative foray in indoor air purification sector.
SilCap project: new adsorption materials for indoor air purification
Research project SilCap led by Dr Alba Cabrera Codony has as main objective the development of new adsorption materials for the selective capture of volatile metilsiloxanes. These compounds are found in notorious concentrations in indoor air, as they are volatile ingredients of cosmetics and personal care products. Oxidation of methylsiloxanes produces silicon oxide crystals that are accumulated and deactivate photocatalysers. This phenomenon has been identified as one of the main constraints to develop systems for the removal of volatile toxic compounds by means of photocatalytic oxidation.
Hence, purification of indoor air opens up new applications for adsorption/oxidation processes that have been studied at LEQUIA for a long time. It is worth bearing in mind that we spend most of our time indoors, and that the presence of volatile toxic compounds from solvents, paintings and building materials, can cause health problems in accordance with the World Health Organisation.
During 2018 Alba Cabrera will develop new adsorption materials at Cabot Corporation headquarters in Boston. Back in Girona and also during a year, she will evaluate the adsorbents’ properties at LEQUIA laboratories. The project is enriched with the scientific supervisor of Dr Maria Martín at UdG and Dr Susnata Samanta at company Cabot.
Project Mem 2.0: “Second hand” membranes to treat drinking water and wastewater
Mem2.0 seeks to upgrade the sustainability of membrane filtration, a technology that in the past few decades has never stopped growing. The project will demonstrate the viability of using “second hand membranes” for the treatment of drinking water and wastewater; concretely, recycled nanofiltration and ultrafiltration membranes from end-of-life reverse osmosis membranes. Additionally, the project will integrate its results to two existing decision support systems. On one hand, MemEoL is devoted to membrane users (desalination plants and other installations for water treatment) willing to identify alternative management routes for rejected membranes (normally, they are landfill disposed). On the other hand, the updating of the NOVEDAR_EDSS software at project end will allow wastewater treatment plant users integrating the use of second hand membranes in their processes.
The beneficiary fellow of the grant is Dr Raquel García Pacheco. Raquel García will study the use of second hand membranes for drinking water during the first year at the University of South New Wales in Sydney, under the supervision of Dr Pierre Le Clech. The second and last year of the grant will take place in the University of Girona and will be focused on the wastewater treatment (urban and industrial) by means of recycled membranes. Scientific supervisor at UdG is Dr Joaquim Comas.
Mem 2.0 will devote many efforts to validate experimental results obtained at laboratory scale in different industrial environments and to foster the commercialisation of the developed technology. For this reason, several stakeholders within the water field will be involved in the project: companies Telwesa and Valoriza Agua, the wastewater treatment plant of Quart (Girona), Australian NGO SkyJuice – devoted to humanitarian activities within the water field – and research institute IMDEA Agua in Madrid, where Raquel García carried out her doctoral thesis and participated in LIFE-TRANSFOMEM project aimed at recycling end-of-life reverse osmosis membranes.
Photo: Alba Cabrera Codony (left) and Raquel García Pachecho (right) at Cabot Corporation (Boston) and UNSW laboratories (Sydney)