Facing the necessity to improve environmental and economic sustainability of industrial processes, Circular Economy strategies are essential in partnership with scientific research. At global and local levels, development goals are declined in the respect of needs for civil society. In this context, industrial innovation of medium- and small-size enterprises is regarded as one of the driving forces of such development. The Italian electroplating sector is one of the most relevant one and it comprises medium- and small-size companies. In this sector, one of the most problematic issue is the removal of heavy metal (i.e. nickel, copper and chromium) from wastewaters. Chemical-physical methods are used to separate heavy metals from effluents with high economic and environmental costs. The physical-chemical treatments usually applied consist in the precipitation of metals as oxides recovered as sewages and dewatered by filter press, dilution with clean water or evaporation: processes that imply high costs for the purchase of chemical products, the maintenance of plants, the disposal of contaminated sludge and the consumption of large quantities of water and energy. The byproducts are then road transported to specialized factories where metals are precipitated by chemical reactions. The Heavy Metal Bio-recovery and Valorization -HMBV- project develops an innovative and eco-friendly biotechnology based on the exploitation of microbial biosorption for removing heavy metals (HM) from electroplating wastewaters. The initiative moves from the cellular ability to adsorb heavy metals onto extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) and the possibility to convert the metal-binding biomass into high value metal salts and metal-organic complexes with catalytic abilities. Moreover, the water foot print of the industrial process lowers, thanks to the possibility of water to re-enter in the production cycle. Beside environmental benefits, the final goal of this study is to give a second life to wastes that represent new economic opportunities for enterprises thus contributing to the implementation of the Circular Economy concept at Regional level and creating new business opportunities at European and International level for the Industrial stakeholders. Sustainable circular economy systems are needed to prevent permanent resource dissipation in the earth system to keep resource circularity within the system. The only way a sustainable technology or system for a circular economy can be developed is by embedding life cycle thinking or life cycle assessment in designing and development of the system. This proposal is to embed life cycle assessment applied to the design and development of resource recoveries from wastewaters in electroplating industry. The project rationale is declined with a multi-disciplinary approach and will be validated for nickel, copper and chromium. The case studies (i.e. different typology of industrial wastewaters) will be decided together with supporting partners working in the field of electroplating industrial processes, water treatment plant construction, bio-inoculants production, industrial consultancy, in order to meet needs of small-medium enterprises in Lombardy. Results could then be exported in Italy and in other Countries, where electroplating industry still suffers of a low technical innovation level. Different environmental parameters affect EPS binding properties and hence represent issues for heavy metal removal from contaminated wastewaters. In order to address such questions, the key actions of project are: i) the implementation of the production of active biomass of heterotrophic bacteria and cyanobacteria in pilot-plants; ii) the determination of the best technical conditions for the cell-metal adsorption step by the definition of the metal adsorption/desorption kinetics as from pure solutions, multiple element solutions and electroplating waste waters; iii) implementation of biosorption treatments (use of microporous micro-carriers in order to improve water-biomass separation): iv) the extraction of the EPS-metal complexes and the characterization of their atomic structure by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR); v) transformation in metal salts; vi) the determination of the catalytic activity of the different fractions of the organic-metallic complexes in C-C condensation, reduction or oxidation reactions. It is possible to forecast the discovery of new products with different catalytic behavior due to the high biodiversity of natural organic compounds present in the microbial world. In view of a practical industrial application of research, studies will be mostly conducted in medium-scale systems and on multi-metal electroplating wastewaters. The HMBV project presents a high innovation grade both at process, product and societal levels: i) it does not use any chemicals for metal removal, which is performed by adsorption onto bacterial biomass; ii) biomass production and water treatment could be performed within one single plant; iii) it reduces contaminated sludge volumes and their transport; iv) it reduces water utilization; v) it produces biocatalysts and metal salts with high commercial value v) it brings technology transfer to an industrial sector suffering of innovation thanks to the presence of a stakeholders’ Advisory Board; vi) it creates new job opportunities for the young researchers thanks to training activity in science, communication and internship at industrial consultancy company. The proposal marks a change in the view of an industrial effluent from being a cost to being a resource, in a virtuous circle with economic and environmental benefits. The combination of scientific, technical and educational impacts makes the proposed work consistent with the Cariplo Foundation’s goals within the 2020 call “Circular Economy for a sustainable future".
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Feb 7, 2024
Zecchin, Sarah, 2024, "Heavy Metals-transforming strains characterization", https://doi.org/10.13130/RD_UNIMI/TD9T4C, UNIMI Dataverse, V1
This dataset includes data related to the characterization of bacterial strains able to transform heavy metals.
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