Raquel García is the third researcher of LEQUIA research group of University of Girona acknowledges with this prize
The prize was awarded on Tuesday 14th December at the headquarters of The Botín Foundation in Madrid
Raquel García Pacheco, a member of the research group "Laboratory of Chemical and Environmental Engineering" (LEQUIA) of the University of Girona has been awarded the Prize to Sustainable Water Management by prestigious Water Observatory of The Botín Foundation within the modality management models for her project to recycle membranes. The prize, valued at 1.500€, was given on December 14th at a ceremony held at the headquarters of The Botín Foundation in Madrid.
Raquel García Pacheco is chemical engineer from University Rey Juan Carlos and holds a PhD from University of Alcalá. Her research career has been focused on the recovery of reverse osmosis membranes and their recycling to nanofiltration and ultrafiltration water membranes, with projects aimed at implementing circular economy solutions. She has worked at IMDEA Water (Madrid), University of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia), and the University of Girona, where she has been recently granted a “Juan de la Cierva Incorporación” fellowship to continue her research work at LEQUIA group.
The awarded project tackles the recycling of reverse osmosis membranes to nano and ultrafiltration membranes for water treatment. Those filters, with a very small porous size, are widely used in desalination and wastewater treatment plants. Thus, a large desalination plant can have up to 20.000 reverse osmosis membranes installed. Membranes are renewed every five or ten years, and then disposed of in landfills or burned in incinerator plants. Raquel García Pacheco’s project allows recycling them by means of a sustainable chemical process. Recycled membranes have a lower cost than the new ones and can be used in the same applications. Moreover, thanks to the development of gravity-driven filtration systems, they can also be utilized in decentralized drinking water treatment systems. Therefore, it is a circular economy solution that involves different water utilities, and that connects large infrastructures (desalination plants) with small-decentralized systems that can be very useful for isolated communities or in emergency events.
Raquel García Pacheco has developed this research and transfer work within the framework of two projects funded by competitive grants. The first one was funded by the TECNIOSpring program from the Catalan Agency for Business Competitiveness (ACCIÓ). During the first year, the researcher worked at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, where she studied alternative equipment to reduce investment and operation costs of recycled membranes. The second project is under development and is being funded by program “Innovadors” from the Catalan Agency for Management of University and Research Grants (AGAUR). It is aimed at exploiting obtained results through a spinoff company that is currently being set up, Ecomemb.
The Water Observatory from The Botín Foundation is the first interdisciplinary think tank on water issues in Spain. Set up in 1998, it is known for its rigorous scientific level that combines natural sciences with economic and social sciences, with the ultimate goals of offering ideas and gathering relevant data for decision-making processes. The Prizes to Young Talent, currently in its seventh year, are meant to acknowledge the task carried out by young professionals and researchers within the field of sustainable water management.
This is the third time that a researcher from the Laboratory of Chemical and Environmental Engineering (LEQUIA) of the University of Girona is awarded a prize by The Water Observatory of The Botín Foundation. In 2014 Sebastià Puig was acknowledged for his work on the bioremediation of water polluted with nitrates by means of bioelectrochemical systems. Four years later, in 2018, Hèctor Monclús was awarded a prize for his work on the optimization of drinking water treatment plants by means of artificial intelligence tools. These three acknowledgments position LEQUIA at the forefront of eco-innovation within the water management field.