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Over 70 per cent of the Earth's surface is covered by water with most of it is unusable for human consumption. In both developing and industrialized countries, a growing number of contaminants are entering water supplies from human activity with consequent impoverishment of natural resources and serious effects on human health. Moreover, the increasing competition among agricultural, industrial, and domestic users will lead to significant increases in the real financial cost of water. Clean, usable water is becoming a scarce natural resource that needs to be increasingly managed for sustainable development.A breakthrough in membrane technology is needed to produce cleaner water with significantly less costs and energy requirements. The nanotechnology in the CERAMPOL project has the potential to contribute to long-term water quality, availability and viability of water resources.
The main objective of the CERAMPOL project is to achieve a new generation of smart and low-fouling nanostructured membranes based on ceramic and polymeric materials with enhanced affinity to heavy metals and drugs. CERAMPOL will contribute to the solution of issues related to waste water in the metallurgic, pharmaceutical and healthcare industries respectively. This will include reducing the concentration of highly toxic contaminants in water supply infrastructure and natural sources such as lakes, rivers, and sea. The new filtration technology developed in the CERAMPOL project will mitigate the risk to humans' health and the environment such as bioaccumulation of heavy metals, the emergence of multidrug resistance organisms, chronic toxicity, and metal-related diseases.
The new filters will be prepared by innovative processes such as electrospinning, sol-gel, coating processes for obtaining multi-layered membranes possessing several key properties such as: antifouling; self-cleaning; selective filtration of antibiotics and heavy metals. Specifically, the multi-layered membranes will composed of three functional parts:
A) an anti-fouling pre-filter based on polymeric nanofibers,
B) a cleaning system based on piezoelectric materials,
C) a highly selective nanostructured ceramic membrane.
The project will be initially devoted to define the requirements for the development of a new generation of smart nanostructured membranes for each specific application:
Complete technological and economic viability assessments of the CERAMPOL technology will be carried out by the industrial partners in the respective industries. Environmental impact and life cycle of the new filtration technology will be fully assessed in order to highlight benefits in terms of water preservation and recovering. Additionally, the risks and benefits of the nanomaterial-based membranes will be evaluated at the different stages of their entire life cycle, covering the production steps, the use as well as end-life stages, such as disposal and recycling.
As a global solution, CERAMPOL has huge economic and innovation potential that will contribute to the expansion of the global market for "environmentally sound technologies" while increasing the creation of new green jobs in a recession Europe: all of these are key objectives widely recognized and emphasised in the EU 2020 strategy. The EU is a strong global player in eco industries with around 30% of overall global economic turnover, and more than 50% in water and waste management. The CERAMPOL project is expected to stimulate the sales of nanomembranes systems in the European market and render common this high-tech process in small and medium-sized companies. The industrial partners will guarantee the effectiveness of the knowledge and technology transfer into this intensive commercial arena. Additionally, the project will guarantee full sustainability of the proposed approach by providing both economic and environmental operational practices that can be replicated across the EU in the medium-term.