CEB scientists use nanotechnology to clean up oil-contaminated soils

Projeto MORE está a ser desenvolvido por um grupo de cientistas do Centro de Engenharia Biológica da EEUM que, através do recurso à nanotecnologia, vão conseguir implementar, de forma mais rápida, eficaz e ambientalmente correta, o tratamento biológico anaeróbio de solos contaminados.

Limpar os solos, sedimentos e águas subterrâneas contaminadas com petróleo vai ser mais fácil. Isto graças a um projeto de investigação inovador que está em curso no CEB e que, com recurso à nanotecnologia e a processos de tratamento biológicos, vai permitir converter o petróleo em substâncias menos prejudiciais para o ambiente e para a saúde humana.

Land contamination is a serious environmental problem as it causes significant deterioration in the quality of soil and groundwater, two of the most valuable natural resources. When contaminated sites are deep, they can remain hidden for long periods of time, so the difficulties of access to the site make the treatment more complicated. In this way, this project explores the potential of some microorganisms to convert oil to innocuous substances, in the very place where the contamination occurred.

The use of ferric nanomaterials is a distinctive factor of this project, since it will allow to accelerate and stimulate the activity of the microorganisms, so that the treatment of the place is processed in a faster, effective and environmentally correct way.The technique used for land decontamination is bioremediation, which has a high potential for recovery of contaminated areas, since it is a more economical and environmentally friendly technique than physical-chemical treatments.

In the future, this solution could be commercialised since the study of soil bioremediation is still very limited .The fact that this project is being developed in Portugal is also a great asset for the country, since it puts the research done in this sector at the forefront and capitalizes the leadership of Portugal and the EEUM in this field, promoting international knowledge. At the same time it will help stimulate entrepreneurship, the creation of new businesses and the involvement of potential investors, leveraging the country’s economy and development.

Mineral oils, derived from petroleum, are one of the main pollutants in the soil and groundwater, and in Europe there are about 342,000 contaminated sites identified and more than 2.5 million potentially contaminated. Of the reported incidents relating to local contamination of soils, mineral oils represent a percentage of 22-24%.

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