More than 220 people have attended EU-ISMET 2021 conference, which took place virtually from 13th to 15th September. Last edition of the conference was held in Newcastle in 2018.
LEQUIA research group from University of Girona (UdG) has organised the fifth edition of the European conference of the International Society for Microbial Electrochemistry and Technology, EU-ISMET 2021. The event took place virtually from 13th to 15th September due to covid-19 crisis. Despite these circumstances, number of registrations rose to 220 and for three days UdG was at the forefront of research in microbial electrotechnologies (METs).
Microbial electrochemistry links a microbial metabolism to an electrochemical system. Technologies based on this concept arise growing interest in the scientific community for its many applications in water treatment, or synthesis of chemical compounds and biofuels, among others. Nevertheless, they are still under development and an important investment in research is needed to introduce them into the market.
UdG, recognised for its research in microbial electrotechnologies
The Laboratory of Chemical and Environmental Engineering (LEQUIA) is a multidisciplinary research group of University of Girona devoted to the development of eco-innovative environmental solutions. Internationally recognised for its research in water treatment, in the past ten years LEQUIA has positioned itself as one of the most renowned groups in microbial electrochemistry in the south of Europe.
Sebastià Puig, associate professor “Serra Hunter” and chairman of the fifth edition of EU-ISMET conference, has been awarded by prestigious ICREA Academia programme for the excellence of his research within this field. Currently, Dr Puig is the principal investigator of two European projects focused on these technologies (BioRECO2VER and ELECTRA). The group is also beneficiary of two National projects dealing with METs (COOMET and RITA). Moreover, LEQUIA researchers have published the results of their research in bioelectrochemical systems (BES) in nearly one hundred articles in high impact international journals and in seven doctoral theses (four of them, awarded); and have produced three industrial patents owned by UdG and client companies.
Such excellent indicators would not have been achieved without stablishing alliances and synergies with other research groups and institutions and private companies. Thus, in the two European projects afore-mentioned, the collaboration with the Molecular Microbial Ecology research group of University of Girona (geMM; Dr. Lluís Bañeras), which also took part in the organisation of EU-ISMET 2021, was key to identify and characterise the microorganisms used. Regarding the scale-up of the developed technologies, LEQUIA worked with large business organisations within the water and the energy sectors like Suez group of FCC Aqualia.
High impact in Girona and worlwide
Last edition of EU-ISMET conference was held in 2018 in the English city of Newcastle. Therefore, EU-ISMET 2021 is the first post-pandemic European conference on microbial electrotechnologies. Among the speakers, we find renowned scientists like Helen de Wever (VITO, Belgium), Sarah Glaven (NRL, USA), Korneel Rabaey (UGent, Belgium) or Miriam Rosenbaum (HKI, Germany). Additionally, on September 16th a meeting of European project ELECTRA was held in Girona. ELECTRA is a project funded by the European Commission and the National Research Foundation of China to develop and validate bioelectrochemical systems for water and soil remediation. All this, together with the steady increase of research activity within this field, has rose the number of attendants of EU-ISMET 2021 over 220.
The impact of the conference in Girona is not restricted to the scientific community. By contrast, it is placed also in the business ecosystem and in the education system of Girona province. On the one hand, works presented attract the interest of the water sector, which has a high relevance in Girona, with companies and institutions that have boosted innovative projects such as Consorci Costa Brava or Aigües de Girona, Salt i Sarrià de Ter, and with a business association – the Catalan Water Partnership – which has its headquarters in Girona.
On the other hand, together with Institut de Ciències de l’Educació Josep Pallach (ICE) and UdG Campus Water, LEQUIA has carried out an outreach activity with high schools in Girona (“Design your own bioelectrochemical system!”) in order to disseminate the principles of BES in a dynamic and innovative way. Despite the obstacles of covid-19 outbreak, the activity was completed and during the conference the works of several students were presented.
Photo: Sebastià Puig, EU-ISMET 2021 chairman