The international workshop was attended by 350 researchers in energy and environment, academic authorities, public and private functionaries, entrepreneurs, teachers and advanced students in the area of nano and biotechnology, among others.

1.1 Guest speakers:

JAPAN:   Katzuro Anazawa, Tokio University

KOREA:   Hor-Gil Gur, Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology

ARGENTINA:   Roberto Candal, CONICET & Universidad San Martín.

MEXICO: María Teresa Alarcón, CIMAV Unidad Durango

CHILE: Mariella Rivas, Universidad de Antofagasta

COSTA RICA: José Vega-Baudrit, LANOTEC

ECUADOR: Chulde Vladimir, INER & Spiros N. Agathos, Universidad Yachay Tech

COLOMBIA: Nelson Obregón, Universidad Javeriana/ Janeth Sanabria, Universidad del Valle/ Jorge Enrique López, Pro-Biorefinery, Universidad del Valle/ Luz Marina Flórez, Universidad Autónoma de Occidente.

2. Topics covered in the plenaries

The topics covered in the workshop were:

2.1 Detection and measurement of heavy metals in water.

2.2 Bio and nanoremediation of heavy metals in water.

2.3 Biorefinery, a strategic route to address the energy problem.

The main aspects presented in the plenary were:

  • Role of microorganisms for removal of heavy metals. Interaction processes of microbes and metals as well as the formation of nanomaterials were presented. From such interactions it is possible to develop strategies that address the problem of remediation of heavy metals in water. As specific cases, iron mineralization, formation of magnetite, siderite, iron oxyhydroxide nanowires among others, were treated.
  • Universal access to clean water and sanitation as one of the Sustainable Development Goals, governance, quality improvement, wastewater management with reduced risk and vulnerability are some of the main issues addressed in the nano-context of remediation of water contaminated with metals and metalloids.
  • The pollution problem by metals and metalloids in Argentina was presented. In Latin America, 14 million people are exposed to the effects of arsenic contamination in water, with 4 million in Argentina. With the use of bio-clays, are setting remediation solutions for waters contaminated with heavy metals and metalloids such as arsenic.
  • As a case study, the behavior of dissolved heavy metals were investigated on the acid mine water in a vicinity of an abandoned copper mine. The heavy metal concentrations in the river water downstream of the mine were in the range of background level around the investigation area. Simulations found that with a simple neutralization tank extraction capacities between 77-100% of the heavy metals are obtained.
  • In the case of Colombia, mercury contamination resulting from mining activity in the Mojana region was presented. The Mojana region is one of

the most complex water systems and one of the most mercury-contaminated places in the world. It was proposed to consider this region as a pilot to study the problem of contamination by heavy metals, particularly mercury.

  • Enzymatic, molecular and cellular transformations in sustainable and scalable technology systems. Multi-scale methodologies become possible with biosynthetic bioremediation and optimization. It is recognized in algae an important means of treatment of wastewater and energy production with sustainable integration of refinery waste and recycling.
  • The biocells microalgae and agro-industrial waste from a biorefinery concept with recovery from biomass, opens an important avenue of potential solutions to energy and environmental problems. The need for research with biomass that does not compete with food and land use was highlighted. The advantages and potential offered unconventional biogas as renewable energy and the role of microalgae in these energy production processes were presented.
  • Pyrolysis of waste biomass for generating microwave bioproducts and biofuels, as an alternative to conventional was presented.
  • Costa Rica is known for being one of the “greenest” countries. One of its goals for 2021 is to achieve leadership as carbon neutral country and a way to achieve it is through the biorefinery.


The workshop presentations are available on the website: www.cbionano.org   or www.youtube.com:


Questions and answers are available at:



  1. Results derived from the working groups

Experts invited to the workshop were divided into four working groups according to selected themes: diagnostic of the problem of heavy metal pollution in water, Nano and bioremediation of heavy metals in water and biorefineries.

Each of the working groups had a coordinator and a rapporteur.

The following considerations for the development of the proposals in the working groups were considered:

  • To board problems of interest concerning countries participating in the Forum, around which scientific and technological cooperation projects with a high social value may be developed.
  • To encourage synergic participation within various fields of knowledge around the focal points of convergence, avoiding dispersion.
  • To promote the interest and participation of community in general in the solution of problems identified.
  • To ascertain that the precautionary principles, as well as the principle of responsible use of nano/biotechnology processes and products are implemented, hence guaranteeing sustainability with no negative impact on the environment and living beings.


3.1 Group No 1

Detection, measurement, and monitoring of heavy metals in water

Aspects such as: diagnosis of the presence and concentration values of heavy metals in water, the impact on the environment and living beings, education and technology transfer so that communities assume tasks of measurement, monitoring, mitigation and remediation oriented the following lines of action:

I) Elaboration of maps for concentrations of heavy metals and metalloids in water

Having a map of concentration of heavy metals, will allow more precise means of arriving at a diagnosis of contamination and the impact and risk on the environment and living beings. Additionally, will be a valuable tool for drawing development action plans for mitigation and remediation.

To elaborate the map, the development of systems and processes of measurement are required. Although there are offers of measuring equipment in the market, the high cost and poor availability make it hard to implement of these equipment at large-scale.

II) Design, development, and implementation of nanosensors

Significant capabilities exist in the area of nanotechnology for the development of sensors for recording and monitoring heavy metals in water. This opens a line of action: bio-nanotechnology to design, build and gauge sensors for heavy metals measuring or implementation of those already in the market.

III) Setting up networks of nanosensors

On the other hand, building, deploying and managing sensor networks that collect data and to send them to the focal points is necessary. These networks could be connected via satellite, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. It has raised the use of regional radio stations for the transmission of information and data.

IV) To promote cooperative measurement

On the other hand, to involve the community in the tasks of measuring, monitoring and diagnostics -collective measuring- is one of the priority actions to make pollution mapping viable. There are already precedents in this direction, such as “Acuatox” initiative, conducted between Argentina and Mexico in 2005.

This implies community work and knowledge and technology transfer. In this regard, the participation of universities, schools, research groups, etc. in community work,   play a key role.

V) Development of models and simulation

With the information obtained from data collection, plus maps of contamination and risk, the implementation of simulation models is possible to identify and differentiate pollution sources, mobility of contaminants and other dynamics associated with these processes.

VI) Standardization

In the process of sample collection it is made possible to implement simple and economical solutions as proposed by Prof. Anazawa with the use of PET bottles.

One aspect of fundamental importance is the problem of standardization of protocols and measurement methods so that the maps obtained have the required value for use in planning and remediation tasks.

It is convenient that the countries of FEALAC, include in their policy agenda aspects about regulation, validation, and standardization in relation to heavy metal contamination.

3.2 Group No 2

Nanoremediation of heavy metals in water

One of the differentials that guide the FEALAC-bionano initiative is the possibility to develop cooperation projects with high impact and social benefit.   In this respect, it is pertinent to develop products, which can be incorporated into the communities affected by the problem of heavy metal pollution. The design and development of a system able to clear contaminated water for human daily consumption could provide a solution with a high value on food security and  risk reduction. The use of filters assisted with bio and nanotechnology can provide an important option.

I) Technical Aspects

It is considered the design of a “device” that it complies with the following requirements:

  •      Pretreatment
  •      Retention of contaminants – metal and metaloides-.
  •      Inactivation of microorganisms.
  •      Indicator for device replacement or maintenance.
  •      Handling and proper disposal of waste.


The development of a device of this nature must be made following the recommendations of methodological use, materials and processes that do not cause any risk in living beings and the environment. Is necessary to implement studies of the materials used, lifecycle, ecotoxicity, etc.

  1. II) Social Issues
  • Should be consider the type of community user of the technological product. If urban or rural, infrastructure and water supply, distribution, sewerage and sanitation.
  • Technology transfer should also be made to allow the community to assimilate and to make good use of the product.
  • It is required that a project of this nature incorporates academics and environmental authorities, mining and energy, education, health, responsible for water management, etc.

III) Regulatory and continuity aspects

It is imperative taken into account the aspects of legislation and regulations concerning the use of new technologies to tackle the problems that are part of this initiative. Specifically with regard to the responsible use of nanomaterials and nanoprocesses.

What’s more, a coordinated effort to ensure financial conditions, infrastructure, operability, and continuity is needed. Under these conditions, the proposed solution gradually evolves according to the dynamics of this type of technologies.


3.3 Group No 3

Bioremediation of heavy metals in water

The problem attending the FEALAC-bionano initiative cannot be resolved from the nano or from biotechnology as independent areas. These two areas of knowledge converge towards a common interdisciplinary focus. The development of a device to water remediation requires   these two components.

The working group focused its discussion towards the search for effective strategies with use of microorganisms supported on nanostructured membranes to complement the action of the “device” described in the group No 2.

The group delineated its proposal for the removal of heavy metals in raw water for human consumption. It is noted that the strategies that can be considered for removal of heavy metals depend drastically on the type of water: industrial, waste or previously treated.

Two phases were considered:

I) Identification and characterization

  • This component is closely related to the work done by the group 1, since from the detection and monitoring tasks becomes possible to identify and define operational conditions for the remediation system.
  • Identification and physicochemical characterization of water to establish the right conditions for microorganisms to fulfill the task of remediation.
  • Review of the current regulations in each country and region as well as previous work in this direction.

II) Usability and Performance

  • The device must be flexible and modular in order to suit local needs and problems as well as the type of local microorganisms.
  • It is suggested to establish a pool of flexible and modular microorganisms, allowing its adaptation to the different characteristics of the work areas.
  • The group suggests working with clays as a matrix since its pore structure provides high plasticity that can be exploited for absorption of the contaminant in association with the microorganisms.
  • The device should be a easy to get and transferable to the community.
  • The device must ensure security, without risk to consumers and the environment.


  • The characterization of the regions (Group No 1) together with measurements of contaminant level and physicochemical characteristics of the water, will determine the mechanisms so that FEALAC-Cbionano Network actors can be part in the development of subsequent phases of implementation. Since these characteristics define water conditions and the type of microorganism to be used.
  • The work of the different countries should be in the context of common objectives to ensure the impact to the different members of the network.

3.4 Group No 4


The biorefinery offers an important opportunity to address the energy challenge with a high value of sustainability and environmental commitment, in addition to the valuable contributions in biomaterials for use, among others, in remediation of heavy metals. Remediation and energy production can be framed within a holistic context, which establishes optimal balance between results and impact caused on the environment and living things.

Premises established for structuring project:

  • The project should focus on areas of common interest and pursuit of complementary efforts, considering the capabilities and experiences in research and development of the participating countries.
  • It was agreed to consider the following definition of biomass for progress in the formulation of the project: “Organic matter of vegetable or animal origin, including waste and organic waste, which could be exploited for the development of value-added products“.
  • As possible areas of biorefineries application were defined the following: food safety, health (including medical sciences researchers), energy and environment.
  • To focus efforts on sustainable use of waste.
  • To entail the business/industrial sector in the project.
  • To establish agreements on intellectual property.
  • To make better actions aiming at environmental remediation (bioremediation based and waste management).
  • The scientific and technical committee shall conduct a survey and analysis of information on funding sources for the project. To explore the possibility of managing financial resources at the level of foreign ministries.

It was proposed to direct the   project considering five areas of major importance, around the concept of Biorefinery:

  1. Diagnosis of the current situation of biorefineries at regional and global level. Identify references in the development of Biorefinery, establishing best practices. This diagnosis must be supported by technological platforms that allow permanent income information, including technical, legal and regulatory aspects that apply in this field of development. This information must be available to the network members and would be taken as official information to address decisions to R+D+i.

It is expected that this activity is the basis for the creation of a dynamic diagnostic system under the Cbionano network, which facilitate efforts to focus research and innovation within the framework of FEALAC.

Identification of raw materials (biomass) to feed biorefineries. This identification should focus on variables such as availability, characterization and impact on the environment (carbon footprint, water footprint and energy footprint). Three types of raw materials that make it viable under the biorefinery concept and are associated with the countries participating in the discussion are:

  • Agricultural waste (generated after the harvest and post-harvest processes in various chains of the agricultural sector, eg leaves and buds of growing sugarcane, rice husks, coffee residues, etc.).
  • Agro-industrial waste (generated when agricultural products are processed to add value, eg vinasse, glycerol).
  • Urban Waste (Domestic and industrial, whether solid, liquid or gaseous).
  • Algae (In early stages of research).
  • To improve the map of existing biomass at regional level.
  • Setting a base of projects and research line previously conducted in the area, in order to analyze products and/or knowledge generated from them, and thus achieve capabilities to transit to the phase of scaling to pilot plant level.
  • In parallel, we expect continue advancing in research on potential biomass resources and development at laboratory scale leading to the recovery of these sources, taking into account the product life-cycle, management and process automation. Likewise, it is expected to move towards the design and construction of infrastructures for production of scale pilot plant, taking into account environmental and social aspects.

With the information obtained from the diagnostic, is expected to facilitate private sector engagement to the project, making it a participant in the reality of the sectors, their needs, problems and especially job opportunities in R+D+i.

4 Actions

4.1 Publication

Publication of the book:

Nano and Biotechnology for sustainable environmental remediation and energy generation.

The contents of this publication includes the topics covered in the workshop, as well as aspects of the problem of heavy metal pollution in the countries of FEALAC and biorefineries as a factor for sustainable development in clean energy production.

4.2 Cooperation Projects

4.2.1 From the results of the workshop, although four aspects of the theme on energy and environment were treated, the first three components: Detection & Measurement, Nanoremediación and Bioremediation are interrelated in such a way that might fit into a single project. This project could be aimed at: Bio and Nanotechnology for measurement and remediation of heavy metals in water. Project would be expected to be made up of three components mentioned.

4.2.2 A second project would be oriented towards biorefinery waste for energy production.

The Network Coordinator develops together with the Group´s coordinators written project proposals, which will feed back with experts who participated in the initiative, which will be part of the scientific and technical committee. Once constituted documents, potential funding sources will be identified.

4.3 Thematic Knowledge Networks

Around two cooperation projects two thematic networks are created:

4.3.1 Bio-nanotechnology Network

4.3.2 Biorefineries Network.

The purpose of these networks is to facilitate the connection between researchers from different countries and facilitate cooperative work, promote the exchange of information, ideas and experiences relevant to these areas. It also seeks to organize training and knowledge transfer between research institutions and groups. This will pave the way for the development of the projects.

Researchers and research groups who wish to join these two networks can fill out the form available on the website: www.cbionano.org under the menu: Thematic Networks.

For the development and subsequent implementation of these two cooperative projects, the following actions, which require active participation of countries within FEALAC, are proposed.

  • It is essential to have information on services and equipment characterization available to the FEALAC countries. This allows streamline and allows viable implementation of cooperation projects. Information on characterization services and equipment, which will be accessible to all network members, will be requested on the registration form found on the website.
  • Researchers and research groups of FEALAC are invited to participate in cooperation projects. As already indicated, participants are enrolled in the following areas: mapping of heavy metal contamination, filters nanostructured capable of removing heavy metals, (specifically arsenic, mercury, cadmium and lead), and microorganisms for remediation of heavy metals and agro-industrial waste as biomass for energy production.
  • By interest in participating in the cooperative projects, the group or researcher should fill out the corresponding registration form for networks (web: www.cbionnano.org) with all necessary information.