Bio-Nanotechnology for environmental remediation and energy -Virtual Course



This Virtual Course “Bio-Nanotechnology for environmental remediation and energy”  is the product of the activities carried out by the Cbionano-Fealac Convergence Network during the year 2016. It brings together presentations, panels  and other contributions by invited experts from the countries of Fealac, as well as from the contributions made to the book: Nano and Biotechnology for Sustainable Environmental Remediation and Energy Generation, published at the end of November 2016 and edited by the Academia Colombiana de Ciencias Exactas Físicas y Naturales and Nanoscale Science and Technology Center.

The topics covered in this course are fundamentally oriented from the opportunities and possibilities offered by bio and nanotechnology to environmental issues, specifically the contamination of bodies of water and the production of clean and sustainable energies.

1. Background Cbionano Convergence Network

Presentation of the background and current status of the Bio-Nano Convergence Network initiative

Srta: María Isabel Loaiza.

Internationalization Office, COLCIENCIAS

Background Cbionano Convergence Network


2. Mapping and assessment of water contamination by mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic in FEALAC countries -Cooperation project profile-

Perform an assessment of the presence and concentration of heavy metal and metalloids into water bodies, specifically mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic in FEALAC countries. The purpose of this is to assess by pilot studies the impact of these contaminants on living beings, environment and strengthen technology transfer, to exposed communities, to assume the measurement tasks, monitoring, mitigation and remediation from the opportunities and capabilities offered by bio and nanotechnology.

Presentation of the Cooperation Project

Prof. Edgar E González

Cbionano-Fealac Coordinator

2.1 Bio-Nanotechnology:  Challenges and opportunities

Edgar González1, Iván Montenegro2

1Geophysical Institute, Faculty of Engineering, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana.  Bogotá D.C., Colombia. Nanoscale Science and Technology Center, Bogotá D.C., Colombia.


2STI Policy Unit, Colciencias, Bogotá D.C., Colombia,


Taking advantage of the capabilities offered by biology and the enormous potential of nanotechnology, in a convergence context, a promising scenario which adopted the name of bio-nanotechnology is being constructed. In this scenario solutions of great impact and sustainability to address the environmental and energy problems can be proposed and developed. In this chapter, the main challenges facing society in the 21st Century and the ways in which biotechnology  offers to address them  in a context of sustainability, are presented.  In addition,  the governance of international cooperation in I & D  in the areas of energy and environment, is analised.

Nanoscience and nanotechnology are oriented to the study and manipulation of matter and energy at the nanoscale,  where fundamental processes and components that support the structure and behaviour of all existing nature take place.  When atoms and/or molecules  are associated to form entities with close to nanometer dimensions, the physical and chemical behaviour of these entities –called nano-objects-  are very sensitive to their composition, shape and size [1]. Properties such as electrical conductivity, elasticity, heat capacity, dispersion and absorption of light, among many others, are drastically modified by changes in the aforementioned aspects. This makes the nanoscale behavior of matter a novel approach of great importance for potential applications and uses.

Taking advantage of the capabilities offered by biology and the enormous potential of nanotechnology,  in a context of convergence, a promising scenario which adopted the name of bio-nanotechnology is being constructed: “atom-level engineering and manufacturing using biological precedents for guidance” [2].    In this scenario are being developed strategies and scientific and technological tools to address the major challenges facing  society in  the 21st century.  Among the main challenges the environmental problem and energy sustainability are highlighted.

The crisis in water quality as well as the urgent need to develop methodologies and systems with the capacity to produce clean energy that fulfil  the criteria of efficiency and sustainability,  are some of the problems that can be tackled by  bio-nanotechnology. However, to achieve this goal, it is necessary to increase international cooperation and strengthen mobility programs the transfer of  knowledge.

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3. Heavy metals in water and their impact and remediation

3.1 Heavy Metal Distribution in Mine Water at Firefly Village, Shikoku, Japan

Professor Katsuro ANAZAWA

University of Tokio

River water and river sediments were collected from downstream area of an abandoned copper mine. This region is known for its clean water environment, and heavy metal concentration in downstream water of the mine was as low as the background level of the region. The river sediments, however, contained high concentration of heavy metals. This phenomenon was understood that when mine water with low pH is neutralized by river water with high pH, dissolved heavy metals are precipitated and concentrated in sediments. The thermodynamic simulation showed that a neutralization treatment could possibly perform 80-100 % removal of heavy metals from the aqueous phase.

Japan was once a world’s leading mining nation, and now has nearly 5,000 abandoned mines. Among them, mine pollution such as water pollution has occurred at about 450 sites. [1] In many cases, mine owners are missing, and in those cases, responsibilities for pollution are unclear. Occasionally, those abandoned mines are hidden in the mountains, and water pollution sneaks up on the downstream unawares. In this study, water and sediments of a contaminated river by mine water were investigated to understand geochemical behaviors of heavy metals, and to propose a countermeasure to reduce the pollution at a typical mountain village.

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Heavy Metal Distribution in Mine Water at Firefly Village, Shikoku, Japan

 3.2 Chemistry of heavy metals in acid river water discharged from mines and volcanoes in Japan

Professor Katsuro ANAZAWA

University of Tokio

Chemistry of heavy metals in acid river water discharged from mines and volcanoes in Japan


3.3 Arsenic in drinking water:  Current situation and technological alternatives for removal

Ma. Teresa Alarcón-Herrera1, Alejandra Martín-Domínguez2 Liliana Reynoso Cuevas1,  M. Piña-SoberanisA. González-Herrera2.

1Centro de Investigación en Materiales Avanzados, S.C. (CIMAV), Unidad Durango Victoria 147 nte, Centro Histórico, C.P. 34000, Durango, Dgo., México


2Instituto Mexicano de Tecnología del Agua (IMTA). Paseo Cuauhnáhuac 8532, Col. Progreso, C.P. 62550,  Jiutepec, Mor.

Arsenic pollution of natural and/or anthropogenic origin represents a global health challenge that affects millions of people around the world, especially in Latin America. This problem is particularly pernicious because regions polluted with arsenic remain mostly unperceived, the analytic identification of this metalloid in water is not obvious, and the adverse effects to human health are chronic and hard to directly associate. In affected communities, exposure to arsenic can be effectively mitigated by limiting the consumption of arsenic-laden water.

Arsenic is a common element found in the atmosphere, rocks, soil and water. It is moved to the environment through a combination of reactions that include natural processes and several by-products of human activity such as mining waste, fossil fuels, pesticides, herbicides, desiccants, wood preservatives, food cattle additives, semiconductors, pigments, among many others.

People can be exposed to arsenic through inhalation and food or water ingestion. In certain areas of the world, the natural geology increases arsenic content in drinking water available to populations. Arsenic is highly toxic in its inorganic form; it is classified as a carcinogenic compound in the IA group (carcinogenic to humans) due to evidence it causes adverse health effects [2].

The long-term health effects of arsenic are the most worrying ones. These are mainly attributed to drinking arsenic-contaminated water, using it in food preparation, or ingesting food irrigated with it. Chronic toxicity produced by the accumulation of arsenic in the body results in skin lesions (e.g. hand and foot hyperkeratosis), myocarditis, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and damage to the nervous and respiratory systems.

The permanent intake of contaminated water by arsenic causes the so-called “endemic regional chronic hydroarsenicism” (or HACRE by its initials in Spanish), which is commonplace in various parts of the world. Therefore, the presence of arsenic in surface waters (rivers, lakes, and reservoirs) and groundwater (aquifers) that can be used for human consumption represents a major health risk.

To limit the adverse effects to exposed human populations, international institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and others have established an arsenic concentration limit for drinking water of 10 µg/L. In México, the regulations currently establish that 25 µg/L is the maximum concentration limit in drinking water (modification to the Mexican official standard, NOM-127-SSA1-1994 [3]). This standard is under review and it is planned to decrease to 10 µg/L in the near future.

Limiting the consumption of arsenic-contaminated water is an effective measure, which can mitigate the exposure of different affected communities. First, it is necessary to identify arsenic exposure by monitoring, measuring, and establishing appropriate remediation actions; these may include the use of alternative sources of groundwater or surface water and/or the use of novel technologies to remove arsenic from water.

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3.4 Nanoremediation of water contaminated  by metalloids

Dr. María Teresa Alarcón

Centro de Investigación en Materiales Avanzados, Unidad Durango, México

Nanoremediation of water contaminated by metalloids

3.5 Modelling of Mercury Transport, Fate and Transformation in Continental Surface Water Bodies

A Case Study of the Mojana Region, Colombia

Nelson Obregón1, Leonardo García2, Diana M. Muñoz1

1Geophysical Institute, Faculty of Engineering, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana

Bogotá, Colombia


2 Basic Science Department, Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano, Bogotá, Colombia


Scientific knowledge related to the dynamics of mercury in the environment and precisely in aquatic ecosystems has been focused in understanding the relationships and processes that control mercury transport, fate and transformation from the different sources of input into aquatic ecosystems to bioavailability processes and bioaccumulation in food chains. Diverse mathematical models of various characteristics have been developed with the purpose of simulating mercury species transport, fate and transformation processes in aquatic ecosystems as tools to approach mercury dynamics in these ecosystems using mathematical expressions, and to use the results to contribute to decision-making related to the management of mercury contamination problems, ecological hazards and human health effects.

Mercury is a persistent environmental contaminant that does not degrade. However, it changes in shape and moves through various environmental compartments (air, water, biota, soil and sediment) [2]. This heavy metal is known for its toxicity and negative effects on human health and natural ecosystems [4]. Among the species of organic mercury, methylmercury (MeHg) is considered the most toxic species due to its bioaccumulative and biomagnification capabilities through food chains [5]. The most common form of methylmercury exposition for human beings is through the ingestion of contaminated species, mainly of fish species [6]. The risks to human health due to chronic exposition to methylmercury generate severe socioeconomic consequences for the population [7]. Consequently, in the last few years there has been an increase in the attention to environmental mercury contamination reflected in the global efforts to reduce anthropogenic emissions to the environment and also in research focused in mercury dynamics in the environment, specifically in the quantification of its concentration, mobilization and transformation.

The sources of mercury in the environment include natural sources (e.g., volcanic emissions, discharge from natural mineral sources, forest and soil burning), anthropogenic sources (e.g., gold mining, fossil fuel combustion, industrial waste) and re-emission sources [7]. Regarding aquatic ecosystems, these are commonly contaminated with mercury due to the direct discharge or release produced by anthropogenic activities into water bodies. The most common of these activities are mining and industrial waste discharges combined with indirect sources such as atmospheric deposition, surface run-off, and soil erosion among others [8][9][10]. In water bodies mercury is subject to transport, fate and transformation processes. The latter process is performed through multiple biotic and abiotic transformations such as photochemical reactions and microbiological activity reductions among which mercury methylation processes are the most significant. So far, methylation processes are not completely known, however, there is scientific evidence which indicates that in water bodies, methylation is produced by aerobic biological activity, particularly in highly productive hydrosystems in ecological terms [11] [12] [13].

Scientific knowledge related to the dynamics of mercury in the environment and precisely in aquatic ecosystems has been focused in understanding the relationships and processes that control mercury transport, fate and transformation from the different sources of input into aquatic ecosystems to bioavailability processes and bioaccumulation in food chains [14]. Diverse mathematical models of various characteristics have been developed with the purpose of simulating mercury species transport, fate and transformation processes in aquatic ecosystems as tools to approach mercury dynamics in these ecosystems using mathematical expressions, and to use the results to contribute to decision-making related to the management of mercury contamination problems, ecological hazards and human health effects [15] [16]. For these reasons, modelling could be a cost-effective way to assess management actions, for instance: the estimation of mercury dynamics in time to determine the risks to the ecosystem and human health, the effectiveness of actions to remediate or passively decontaminate ecosystems, the scope of control and management measures to reduce the sources of polluting loads. However, modelling mercury dynamics in aquatic ecosystems is considered a complex activity, due to the amount of processes and factors that govern transport and fate processes (hydrodynamic and sediment transport) and also transformation processes (biogeochemical) to be considered in water bodies. Such complexity is mainly represented in technical, economic and time-consuming efforts.

The Mojana region, located in northern Colombia, is a territory that is classified as a floodplain through the formation of a delta in the confluence of the Cauca, Magdalena and San Jorge Rivers [17]. Such region is known for its biodiversity and for the ecosystem services it provides to the local population, to the Magdalena-Cauca basin and to humanity, especially through its vast system of wetlands which is the most representative ecosystem of the floodplain. However, the sustainability of the natural system of this region is endangered due to mercury contamination, which mainly affects aquatic ecosystems and their ecosystem services. Fishing is one of these. A significant proportion of the local population depends on fishing as a source of food, and fishing has developed into an economic activity of regional significance .

Several studies such as Marrugo (2015) [18], Pinedo et al. (2015) [19] and Olivero and Johnson (2002) [5] have shown the critical level of mercury contamination in the region through measurements in different environmental compartments combined with the toxicology effects. The sources of mercury contamination in the Mojana region are directly related and mainly caused by the extensive gold mining activity developed in upstream regions in the basins, including the largest and most intense mining region of the Lower Cauca river basin located in Antioquia and Bolivar departments, which yields an annual average of more than 30 % of the national gold production [20]. As a large proportion of this mining activity is conducted through artisanal and small-scale gold mining processes, known for the use of precarious technology, the absence of knowledge or any regulations or standards and the indiscriminate use of mercury for the gold extraction mining activities which a significant portion it is released into the environment becoming in one of the largest anthropogenic source of polluting loads in the Magdalena – Cauca river basin. Due to transportation phenomena in the different environmental compartments, a considerable portion of these contaminants ends up in the aquatic ecosystems of the Mojana region, where they can transform, bioaccumulate and biomagnify in food chains and be exposed to the local population through ecosystem services like fishing.

Regarding the mercury contamination problem in the aquatic ecosystems of the Mojana region exposed above, the implementation of a model of transport, fate and transformation of mercury species in aquatic ecosystems could be a valuable tool for managing these environmental and toxicology regional issues and could contribute to the knowledge of this phenomenon’s environmental dynamics. This would allow us to simulate potential contamination scenarios and the efficacy of control or remediation measures, and these results could in turn feed cost-benefit analyses of such measures. Nevertheless, when a modelling project of these characteristics is undertaken it is fundamental to guarantee aspects such as technical capacity, sustainability, computation requirements and institutional commitment, among other factors, due to the complexity of the application of such models [14][15].

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3.6 On the study of mercury through hydroinformatics tools

Dr. Nelson Obregón
Director Instituto Geofísico
Pontificia Universidad Javeriana

On the Study of Mercury Through Hydroinformatics Tools

3.7 Nano modified clays, bioclays and bio-leaching for water and sediments remediation

Natalia Porzionato,  Luz M. Guz,  Melisa Olivelli, Gustavo A. Curutchet, RobertoJ. Candal

Instituto de Investigación e Ingeniería Ambiental, CONICET, Universidad Nacional de San Martín, Campus Miguelete, 25 de mayo y Francia, 1650 San Martín, Provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Water and sediments contamination is one of the more dramatic environmental problems that humanity is facing now. The situation is worst in the undeveloped countries, with overcrowd cities and deficient water management. Heavy metals, pathogens and recalcitrant organic compounds are between the most dangerous pollutants found in those environments. Versatile and relatively cheap processes for water, waste water and sediments purification should be developed in an attempt to remediate the situation. In this chapter, a few examples of water and sediment contamination in Argentina are presented, as well as remediation alternatives based in the use of nano and bioclays.

Water contamination is one of the main concerns in the entire world but in particular in undeveloped countries, were environmental control and regulations are lighter than in developed countries, or it application is more difficult due to social or economic constrains [21]. Surface water contamination is mainly consequence of the release of untreated Municipal or industrial effluents to water courses. Municipal effluents, in the cases where industrial effluents are separated from sewage waters, can be relatively easy treated by conventional biological methods. The main problem with sewage waters, beside the enormous volume of water to be treated in big cities, is the presence of the so called emergent contaminants. This group of contaminants include medicines, hormones, and other substances eliminated by human been that cannot be degraded in conventional biological plants. Industrial waste water represents a more complicated problem because some contaminants can be recalcitrant or even toxic to microorganisms. Consequently, conventional bio-treatment may be not enough to eliminate these pollutants. In these cases, different physicochemical methods are typically used which include coagulation/precipitation; oxidation, neutralization, etc. Physicochemical methods can be used alone or coupled with bio treatment and/or adsorption. In the case of coagulation/flocculation and adsorption, the production of solid waste containing concentrated amounts of contaminants can be a problem difficult to solve.

Subsurface water can be contaminated by sewage water, industrial effluents, chemicals and oil spilling. But also there are natural pollutants as arsenic, which may be presented in high concentration in subsurface water. In situ remediation of contaminated subsurface water is a difficult task and is one of the more important and interesting modern challenge for environmental and hydraulic engineers.

When conventional water treatment fails, nanotechnology is one of the modern tools that researchers and engineers can use to resolve complicated problems. Nanomaterials display newest and powerful capacities as adsorbents or catalysts, react faster than regular size materials, can penetrate or migrate to places unavailable for other systems, etc. Newly developed nanomaterials and nano-devices are available or are being studied to resolve pollution problems associated with recalcitrant compounds, metals in water, emergent contaminants, disinfection and even more.

In this chapter some typical examples of different heavily polluted systems in Argentina will be presented as examples of contamination in undeveloped countries, followed by the discussion of different treatment process that involve the use of clays modified in the nanoscale, and bioremediation of metal contaminated sites using native bacteria consortia.

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3.8 Nano, Organo and Bio-Clays for Environmental Remediation

Dr. Roberto Candal
Professor and Researcher
Instituto de Investigación e Ingeniería Ambiental
Universidad Nacional de San Martín

Nano, Organo and Bio-Clauys for Environmental Remediation


3.9 PANEL:The problem of heavy metal contamination in bodies of water

Ing. Omar Vargas Martínez. Subdirección de Hidrología. IDEAM

Dr. José Luis Marrugo Negrete. Profesor Grupo de investigación en Aguas, Química Aplicada y Ambiental. Universidad de Córdoba

Ing. Hernando Simón Sfeir. Habitante de la región de La Mojana

Moderator: Dr. Johann Osma, Universidad de los Andes, Secretario Red NanoColombia

Panel: The problem of water contamination by heavy metals


3.10 Biotechnological Synthesis of Silver Nanoparticles using Phytopathogenic Fungi from cocoa

Dr. Raquel Villamizar

Universidad de Pamplona, Facultad de Ciencias Básicas, Departamento de Microbiología.  Grupo de Investigación en Nanotecnología y Gestión Sostenible (NANOSOST).

Km. 1 Vía Bucaramanga, Pamplona Norte de Santander-Colombia.


The objective of this research was to explore the ability of native fungi  isolated  from  cocoa  crops,  to  biosynthesize  nanoparticles. Once standardized,  the nanoparticles were characterized   such   as   UV-Vis   spectrophotometry   and   scanning electron  microscopy. The  microbicidal effect  on  pathogens of   clinical   and   agro-food   interest   was   also evaluated.  As a result it was concluded that living organisms and/or their metabolic products, can be an alternative for clean nanomaterials  production with excellent antimicrobial properties.

According to the inventory of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, silver nanoparticles (AgNP), are located at the bottom of the products generated through this technology .  AgNP, have received special attention because of its low volatility, high stability, long and broad antimicrobial activity.  At nanoscale dimension, silver presents a considerable number of applications due to their size, shape, aggregation and coupling with different molecular receptors.  This characteristic facilitates using them as microbicidal agents able to release silver cations into different types of cell  (Figure ). Actually, AgNP are a promising alternative to fight pathogenic organisms, which have acquired resistance to antibiotics [3] or to eliminate pathogens in different matrices.


The main methods used to synthetize silver nanoparticles are based on physical or chemical processes, which generate waste, that in some cases are highly polluting. Therefore, there exists a need for researching about more environmental friendly methods.

In the last 10 years, scientific and technological advances in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in Colombia, have permeated many higher education institutions, including the Universidad de Pamplona, Colombia. The national trend, led by the Network of Nanotechnology is to solve problems with social impacts based on the introduction of inexpensive nanoprocesses and nanomaterials.

The research group Nanotechnology and Sustainable Management (NANOSOST) at the Universidad de Pamplona, Norte de Santander, has focused part of their studies on the biotechnological synthesis of silver nanoparticles. The use of living organisms and /or their metabolic products seems to be a clean production strategy of high performance.

Filamentous fungi, are eukaryotic, with ubiquitous distribution, easy handling and nutritionally undemanding. They have the ability to become a microfactory of nanoparticles with low cost, high production efficiency and low toxicity. These microorganisms secrete large amounts of bioreactives substances  and produce enzymes, which can be used as reducing agents in the biological production of AgNP. This biosynthetic capacity is mainly due to their high growth rate and high adaptability to the substrate.

Biotechnological synthesis of AgNP mediated by fungi can occur in two ways, “intra- or extracellularly.” In both cases, the reaction occurs thanks to the presence of substances, typically proteinaceous with catalytic activity.  This reaction is produced as a defense mechanisms of the microorganisms when they are faced to metal ions, giving as a product small nanoparticles.

Filamentous fungi capable of synthesizing nanoparticles have shown the formation of AgNP on the mycelium. However, the use of this route requires additional processes of cell disruption to separate the nanoparticles from other cellular components, thus increasing process complexity.  On the contrary, extracellular synthesis allows the obtention of  nanoparticles from aqueous solutions derived from the fungal biomass.  A total substrate reduction without waste generation and therefore a 100% efficiency is achieved. Furthermore, colloidal solutions exhibit good dispersion with sizes ranging from 5 to 50 nm.

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3.11 Ecotoxicology  in Nanotechnologies

Dr. Andrea Luna-Acosta

Department of Ecology and Territory, Faculty of Environmental and Rural Studies (FEAR), Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Transv. 4 No. 42-00, Bogota, Colombia.


Several chemical compounds are used in human activities such as nanotechnologies, and are released every day in the environment. This chapter will provide an overview of sublethal and lethal effects that may have this type of compounds on living organisms and humans. It will also be devoted to ERA (Environmental Risk Assessment) and ERM (Environmental Risk Management) processes, which have been developed by environmental agencies, industries and governments in order to detect, reduce and avoid adverse effects of pollutants on ecosystems and their components. This chapter will also show how ecotoxicological tools (biomarkers, bioindicators, bioassays, biomonitoring) are very useful and necessary in this context, with some examples and case studies. There are two ways of reading this chapter. The “rapid way” consists on easily obtaining key information and methodologies of ecotoxicology for nanotechnologies, by reading only the text boxes, figures and tables. The “long way” consists on going deeper on the understanding of the concepts related with ecotoxicological research, by reading the whole chapter.

It was after World War II (1939-1945) that increasing concern about the impact of toxic chemicals on the environment led toxicology to expand from studies on humans to studies on the environment. It was based on the assumption that if humans can be affected by chemical compounds (as it has been confirmed by multiple case studies), therefore animals, plants and their habitats may also be affected. In this context, the fate of pollutants in the environment is also studied in this field (Figure). The fate corresponds to the transport, transformation and breakdown of pollutants in the environment and within the organisms. Therefore, ecotoxicology can be defined as “the study of the harmful effects of chemicals upon ecosystems” [22].


Both terms, contaminants or pollutants, are used for chemicals that are found at levels judged to be above those that would normally be expected. However, pollutant carries the connotation of the potential to cause harm, whereas contaminant is not harmful. Nevertheless, a contaminant can become harmful and therefore, become a pollutant, if noxious effects are observed [22]. Thus, it is preferable to use the term contaminant rather than pollutant, if noxious effects have not yet been observed. The term xenobiotic is less commonly used since it has a more general sense, and corresponds to any foreign substance found within a living being [4]. More recently, the term emerging contaminant has been used for chemicals that are not commonly monitored in the environment but have the potential to enter the environment and cause known or suspected adverse effects, e.g. UV filters, pharmaceuticals, etc.

Chemical compounds can be degraded by biological or chemical processes in the environment, but when degradation does not occur, they tend to accumulate, especially in sediments. Factors in the environment, such as temperature, water, salinity, pH, or oxygen concentration, will determine the chemical form of chemical compounds in the environment. These factors will also determine the bioavailability of chemical compounds, which means the actual amount of substance that could exert an effect on the living organism, according to the amount that the organism has adsorbed or absorbed. Adsorbed means that the chemical enters the organism dissolved in a liquid or solid, and absorbed that it crosses an external surface to enter the organism. In aquatic ecosystems, chemical compounds can be present in water, sediments or food, and enter in that way into living organisms. Inside the living organism, these compounds can be bioaccumulated (bioconcentrated or bioamplified).

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4. Energy

4.1 Biorefinery by the hand of the nanotechnology: biodegradable polymers from industrial biomass waste

José Vega-Baudrit , Michael Hernandez-Miranda, Rodolfo González-Paz, Yendry Regina Corrales-Ureña

Laboratorio Nacional de Nanotecnología CONARE-CeNAT-LANOTEC, Costa Rica. Edificio Dr. Franklin Chang Diaz, 1.3 km. Norte de la Embajda de EE.UU. Pavas, San José, Costa Rica. Laboratorio de Polímeros, POLIUNA, Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica.


Biorefineries contribute to solve energy, water and environmental problems due to the used of thousands of tons of agricultural biomass residues for production of high value materials, that from a social point of view could  help developing countries to improve their economy. The technological and scientific advances in sciences as nanotechnology have increased the understanding of material properties; helping to  find new applications. Examples of   materials extracted from Costa Rica biomass waste are presented.

In Latin American countries, agriculture is one of the major branches of economic activities. Derived from industries which process coffee, bananas, sugar cane and pineapple, a lot of biomass waste is produced every day.  For example, in the Costa Rican sugar cane industry approximately 25% of the collected mass is considered as waste [23].

Newcost-effective processes with low environmental impact, improved technologies and new applications have been growing. Since 1990, research and development have been increasing in industries, as well as government policies related to biomass waste convertion [24]. The economy is changing in efficiency, making multiple efforts for full utilization of waste materials. However, water consumption and land use are main factors to be taken care of when an increase of the biomass production is planned [23,25].

Biorefinery is one those processes growing thanks to the enviromental consciousness, and is defined as “the sustainable  processing of biomass into a spectrum of marketable products and energy”. Biorefinery facilities are created to produce high value products from biomass waste while preserving natural resources as a side effect by decreasing the consumption of fossile resources and carbon dioxide emissions [26]. This process is focussed in convert the biomass to produce fuels, power, heat, and chemicals. Some examples of biorefineries are: oil, sugar platform biorefinery for bioethanol, syngas and lignin biorefinery (industrial biorefineries)[27]. This is a complex multidisciplinary field of research where nanotechnology can be used for understanding the material properties at the nanoscale level and creating new applications and products in order to develop eco-friendly materials with high value. Polysaccharides (chitosan, chitin, cellulose and derivates), proteins (amino-acids, enzymesand peptides) and polynucleotides (polyesters of phosphor acidsand nucleotides) are the most common biopolymers being obtained from agricultural biomass [28].

Costa Rica has a big agricultural industry, which generates large amounts of agro-industrial wastes. The remnants of the production of fruits, such as pineapples, oranges and bananas have been traditionally linked with environmental damage. Cellulose is the main component of several natural fibers such as cotton, flax, hemp, jute, sugar cane and sisal extracted from fruits and wood, among others. This natural polymer represents about one-third of plant tissues and can be restocked by photosynthesis. The principal method used to obtain micro and nanocellulose from fibers as example pineapple peels is by acid hydrolysis [29]. Figure 1 shows the microcellulose and nanocellulose particles synthesized from Costa Rican biomass pineapple peels.

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4.2 The Development of the Refinery in LANOTEC I+D+i
Dr. José R. Vega
Laboratorio Nacional de Nanotecnología -LANOTEC

The Development of the Refinery in LANOTEC I+D+i

4.2 Environmental and bioenergetic context of livestock production in the Comarca Lagunera region, Mexico

Luis A. Hernández, José L. González Barrios, Juan Estrada Avalos

Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales, Agrícolas y Pecuarias. Centro Nacional de Investigación Disciplinaria en Relación Agua-Suelo-Planta-Atmósfera.

Margen derecha del canal Sacramento km. 6.5 C.P. 35140. Gómez Palacio, Durango, México.


Since the late twentieth century, the agricultural productivity in Mexico was triggered by technological development depicted by the improvement of crops, intensive use of agricultural machinery, chemical fertilizers, irrigation systems, chemical pest control, disease control and animal health protocols. However, the increase in yields of the different production systems also leads to the intensification of the environmental impacts. Some of these are related to the increase in production of some residues such as cattle manure which contributes 49.45% of total CH4 and N2O emissions from the livestock sector. In this chapter, the environmental risk context and the potential of biogas generation in the Comarca Lagunera region, national main producer of milk, is presented.

Since the late twentieth century, the agricultural productivity in Mexico was triggered by technological development depicted by the improvement of crops, intensive use of agricultural machinery, chemical fertilizers, irrigation systems, chemical pest control, disease control and animal health protocols. In the last 10 years, the agricultural production has increased on average 4.9% per year (± 2.4). Livestock systems have also increased their production, bringing significant economic achievements and increasing the demand of fodder. This sector showed a rise of nearly 200% over the past 10 tears. Overall, the agricultural sector contributed on the 3.5% of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during 2014 [30, 31].

Livestock activities in 2009 were developed in an area of 110 million hectares, of which, 28% were in the Mexican tropics, 23% in the template zone and 49% in desert or semi-desert areas. Approximately 430 thousand units of specialized production livestock (roughly 13% of the total) are mainly engaged in poultry farming, swine farming and production of milk and beef from cattle, with good standards of quality and safety, enabling them to meet between 70% and 98% of the domestic market, depending of the concerned product, and access to international markets. However, beside them, there is another large segment of approximately 2.9 million units of livestock production in backyards or in extensive grazing systems with low levels of technology and poor access to markets [32].

However, the increase in yields of the different production systems also leads to the intensification of the environmental impacts associated with direct and indirect processes such as water pollution by nitrates, phosphates and pesticides; emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) such as CO2, CH4 and N2O; and soil degradation and pollution [33].

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4.3 CO2  from waste to resource: Conceptual evaluation of technological alternatives for its exploitation

Ing. Jorge Chavarro

Centro de Investigación en Ciencias y Recursos GeoAgroAmbientales -CENIGAA,

Neiva, Colombia.


The environmental issue generated by greenhouse gas (GHG) and associated with global warming is now a great challenge for the sustainability of the planet. The development of technologies and new processes surrounding the search for solutions to mitigate the production of GHG produced by the fossil fuels industry is increasing. Some of them are focused on CO2 conversion processes as part of the strategy for generating renewable energy through the development of biomimetics, which has made it possible for this gas to be considered a resource. This article presents different options for converting CO2  using competitive intelligence techniques due to their potential implementation at a pilot scale.

The  industry is currently facing two great challenges that condition its status as the main global source of energy. These challenges involve seeking alternative solutions to supply the increasing energy demands of the planet, which requires the promotion of new technologies and innovative exploration and production processes such as non-conventional deposits. Moreover, it faces demanding and rigorous environmental policy that forces it to develop clean methodologies and processes, which makes procedure and project proposals developed in compatibility with the environment appealing.

Although CO2 is thought of as the main greenhouse gas and thus global warming is attributed to it, its warming potential is relatively limited compared to other greenhouse gases. However, the reason why it is actually considered the main cause of environmental issues is its high concentration in the atmosphere.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 31.6 Gigatons of global carbon dioxide emissions are connected with energy consumption, which reached a historic peak in 2012.

Additionally, it informs that 80% of global energy consumption is based on fossil fuels. This information is a strong source of environmental pressure for the energy sector.

Figure \  show a comparative graph of global CO2 emissions with respect to fossil fuels used as the main energy resource and reflect their negative contribution in the form of emissions.

screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-2-35-54-am    For the IEA the fight against climate change has become one of the main and more relevant characteristics of political decision-making in connection with the energy sector. This situation has significant social and economic implications in the aim to solve global warming. Even so, in its website it states that:

“In compliance with the emission goals agreed by the countries by virtue of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the planet will continue emitting 13.7 thousand million tons of CO2 to the environment, which are equal to 60 % above the necessary level to maintain a change of only 2°C in global warming for year 2035” [34].

These results cause concern and expose the need to implement immediate actions aiming to reduce emissions.

The need to make a change towards alternative energy or the so-called renewable energy is made evident. This change would alarm the fossil fuels industry, but it would not be an immediate solution due to the high investment and development costs of this type of energy compared to fossil fuels, and to the high costs associated with the required restructuring process to substantially reduce the use of current non-renewable energy.   

Moreover, projects have been proposed and developed around making the CO2 found in those activities useful with the purpose of reducing emissions. These projects are the current focus of the petroleum industry. Carbon capture and storage, CO2 injection as an EOR technique, industrial transformation, and in situ conversion solutions (deposit) (Residual Oil Degrading Consortium, RODC) or surface conversions such as biomimetics are encompassed in the projects.

In conclusion, short-term solutions imply reducing CO2 by using less energy via improved efficiency and the use of energy resources with low or nonexistent emissions. However, global warming experts view an immediate solution in the capture and storage of the CO2 produced in the processes that generate the largest and most concentrated CO2 currents. The development of these man-made CO2 sewers would allow the world to continue spending its most economic and abundant energy resources while substantially reducing CO2 emissions at the same time.

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4.4 Community criteria for integral management of domestic solid waste

Alejandro Martinez1, Luz E. Muñoz2, Erika Nadachowski3

1Centro de Educación para el Desarrollo Corporación Universitaria Minuto de Dios, Carrera 9a No 20-54 Pereira Risaralda Colombia.


2Corporación Universitaria de Santa Rosa de Cabal, UNISARC Kilómetro 4 vía santa Rosa de Cabal – Chinchiná. Santa Rosa de cabal, Risaralda Colombia.. e-mail:

3Sistema general de Areas protegidas, Coorporación Autónoma Regional del Risaralda CARDER,  Avenida de las Américas Calle 46 No 46-40, Colombia


The following chapter presents the results of the community process  of  residential  solid  waste  characterization  and subsequent   settlement   proposal   by   the   Association   of sustainable project managers of the village of Santa Cecilia (AGPS), Municipality of Pueblo Rico, Department of Risaralda (Colombia). Activity  characterization  was  developed  by  members  of  the AGPS of the village of Santa Cecilia with support from the Autonomous Corporation of Risaralda CARDER and participation of the University of Santa Rosa de Cabal (UNISARC). The results show a  production of solid waste of 0.40 kg/person/day for the village of Santa Cecilia.

The Chocó biogeographic region is located in the north-western corner of South America, extending from the province of Darien in Panama to the province of Manabi, in north-western Ecuador, and covering the entire Pacific coastal region of Colombia. The Chocó is characterized by the presence of ecosystems and habitants with high levels of biodiversity [35]. Compared with the national average of 32 inhabitants per square kilometer, the Chocó region of  Colombia has a population density of about nine people per square kilometer, one of the lowest population densities in the country.

Waste management at Santa Cecilia village is not too different from that reported for other municipalities in the Chocó. A typical case of such  management is reported for the municipality of San Jose de Tadó, a place where solid wastes   are thrown into water sources and open areas, creating a high degree of soil and water pollution. Similar situations are reported by other authors [36-37].

According to the Institute for Environmental Research of the Pacific Region of Colombia (IIAP) [38], dumping of solid waste into water sources is one of the main problems associated with contamination of water resources. The Institute reports that this situation is common in different sub-basins belonging to the great basin of the San Juan River [39]. The IIAP mentions the need for a strategy to solve the problems associated with inadequate management of solid waste.

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From Remediation to Valorization. A Modern Vision of Environmental Sustainability

Dra. Janeth Sanabria Environmental Microbiology and Biotechnology Laboratory Universidad del Valle COLOMBIA

Residual BIomass Pyrolisis by Microwaves: Bioproducts and Biofuels Generated

Dr. Chulde D. Vladimir INER ECUADOR

Biorefinery of Microalgae as Sustaninable Platform

Dra. Mariella Rivas Researcher Lab de Biotecnología Algal y Sostenibilidad Universidad de Autofagasta CICITEM CHILE

Biorefinery for nanomaterials

Dr. Spiros N. Agathos Dean Escuela de Ciencias de la Vida e Ingeniería BIomédica Universidad Yachay Tech ECUADOR

Biofuels from Microalgae and Agro-Industrial Waste Under the Concept of Biorefineries

Dr. Jorge López President Fundación Colombiana para la Promoción y el Desarrollo de las Biorefinerías Universidad del Valle COLOMBIA


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