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SORPMET: Sorption of metals by lows cost natural materials

Subject: Research on industrial wastewater treatment methods

Client: Consortium of private companies and institutes

Investment Category: Wastewater treatment

Project areas: Salamanca Spain

Project Details
The purification of water and pollution control already constitute a prominent part of any industrial policy. Heavy metals are a priority aim in this field and have been the motive of considerable effort of R&D in recent years.

Among the many aspects which together make up the environmental problem of these substances, there are two which are of particular significance in certain industrial sectors: the generally high costs of available purification systems (physico-chemical plants, ion exchange columns, washing in cascade, etc.) and the need to treat large volumes of effluents with contaminating elements found in low concentrations but which have a potentially accumulative or high toxicity effect.

The contaminating elements which were the object of the study are Cr, Cu, Ni and Zn. Cd was initially considered but has been discarded as an object of the study due to the gradual elimination of its use from the metal-finishing sector.

On the other hand, there is a wide range of natural minerals which are very abundant and relatively low cost, and which are well-known for their capacity to retain metallic ions through processes of sorption.

The objective of the project was to study the potential of a number of these minerals, namely: smectites, hormites, vermiculite, kaolinite, calcite, wollastonite and zeolites, which are available in the European Union, with a view to obtaining cheap, large capacity systems for the purification of industrial effluents contaminated by heavy metals.

The different prototypes constructed during the project cannot be categorized as commercial products. Further development will be required in order to optimize the industrial application of the results.

Our collaborators, assisted an existing metal finishing SME based in Athens to construct, operate and monitor a pilot filter installation to explore various possibilities of low-cost materials for the sorption of Ni and Cr. At that time all metal-bath effluents were disposed in the sewage system.

Our collaborators participated as consultants in the preparation of the proposal to the EU, on behalf of the Greek SME, and they also had the technical and the financial management of the company’s activities in the project. The SME, with our support, managed to finance their plans for improving their production process.

With our continuous support, throughout the Project, the SME managed to improve their environmental footprint and created social value that could be disseminated to their local and regional audience, through their collective instruments as metal finishers.

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