FOCAL POINTS OF CONVERGENCE
For the Network’s Phase 2, the identification and fulfillment of the commitments agreed by the members of the Bio-Nano Convergence Network regarding the joint formulation and management of projects within the area of bio-refineries and nanotechnology were proposed as its key goals. These two areas of knowledge will be considered as the “focal points of convergence” for this Network´s Phase. Within this context, four (4) projects are expected to be agreed.
1. Nanotechnology applied to the detection, measurement and monitoring of heavy metals in fresh water
By means of this first project, the possibility of developing methods, interfaces, and sensors for measurements in situ on heavy metals such as mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb) and arsenic (As), amongst others, was fully endorsed. These measurements may be carried out through sensor networks and channeled through communication networks for their collection and use. The scientific and technological transfer resulting from this option is significant.
Community participation within this project is extremely valuable in the area of cooperative measurement, thus facilitating the elaboration of contamination maps and the collation of information to be modelled and evaluated in modelling centers, such as the one recently inaugurated at the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies – IDEAM- in Colombia. These maps provide useful information to study mobility and fixation of heavy metals, and to facilitate the outline of remediation strategies.
2. Nanotechnology for heavy metal remediation of fresh water
The second project would comprise two (2) key components: one component would be oriented to the development of nanomaterials and sustainable methods for potential applications within heavy metal remediation of fresh water. Several FEALAC countries have been working intensively in this direction.
The use of waste derived from certain industrial activities as well as from products of natural origin may be a valuable source in the manufacture of precursors and reductants required in the production of nano materials.
A second component linked to this project should be available, oriented to the evaluation of the impact derived from nanotechnology processes and raw materials on the environment and living beings, when performing this task. There is an obligation to develop coordinated work on nano-materials, production methods, life cycle, and toxicity.
Three ideas presented during Phase 1 may be incorporated into the formulation of the first project as follows:
Nano- structured materials: This idea was originally presented by Colombia and Argentina and aims at the study, both theoretical and experimental, of compound nano-structured materials.
Recycling industrial waste: This idea was originally presented by Colombia and Costa Rica and aims at providing innovative and sustainable strategies for solid waste technologies and management models.
The development of advanced materials: This idea was originally presented by Colombia and aims at the theoretical development, modelling, experimentation, evaluation, and synthesis of advanced materials within different applications.
3. Bio-remediation of heavy metals
This third project may be circumscribed into the area of environmental bio-remediation, an area that has been consolidating itself as a valuable alternative due to its sustainability and high respect for the environment. This technology allows modifications on the oxidation state of metallic waste for its subsequent detoxification. Remediation permits alterations on the oxidation state of heavy metals, modifying their solubility and favoring the implementation of strategies resulting in precipitation, removal, volatilization of this sort of metals, or in the formation of less toxic compounds.
There is a requirement to consider toxicity studies of metals on microorganisms and their effects on biodegradation of organic contaminants, as well as studies on the process of “internalization” and interaction with cellular components. In conjunction with the advantages that nano-materials offer, it will be feasible to develop bio-filters, bio-reactors, bio-sensors, and systems with the ability to generate energy from processes involving bio- remediation.
Beyond any doubt, bio-refinery will play a key role in the drive to develop sustainable alternatives to address the forever-growing demand for energy at present. The integration of current scientific and technological developments has improved efficiencies within the generation of energy and the consolidation of second-generation bio-refineries. The afore-mentioned integration involves bio-fuels that are deemed to be sustainable in technical, environmental, economic, and social terms.
A project introduced in Phase 1, “Development of a bio-industry model for cocoa productive chain improvement in Indonesia and Colombia”, as well as a project entitled “Bio-refinery, a model for sustainable development” may be integrated into one project with a view to introduce a single proposal, and would prove to be especially conducive to the participation of a larger number of groups and organizations.
 For instance, the development of interfaces and applications for mobile phones, allowing these devices to become in-situ measuring instruments. Further development of these interfaces and devices would be feasible by resorting to the technological capacity of countries such as Japan, Korea, China, etc.