Bio-Nanotechnology for measurement and remediation of heavy metals in 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.
The second project 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.
This third component 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.