Circular Economy: Recovery, Reuse & Valorisation

Limits in resource availability are driving a change in current societal production systems, changing the focus from residue treatment and disposal toward resource recovery. The new paradigm focuses on recovering Water, Energy, Nutrients, and Materials for a circular, self-sufficient bio-based economy, closing loops in urban and industrial ecosystems, minimizing waste, and contributing to the SDGs.

The activities carried out focus on new technologies/solutions to i) obtain alternative water sources, including the use of adsorption processes to recover water from the air, tertiary/quaternary treatments of urban wastewater, and hydrate-based desalination; ii) facilitate nutrient recovery from wastewaters, including the development of low-footprint crystallizers, adsorption processes using magnesium-modified cork biochars, and microalgae cultivation, promoting sustainable agriculture; iii) support the recovery of critical and precious metals from waste electrical and electronic equipment; iv) promote the valorization of solid (organic wastes, sludge from WWTPs), liquid (lignin from black liquor, gycerol), and gaseous waste streams (CO2, SO2, NOx) to produce 1) fuels, such as biogas, ethanol, methane, and hydrogen, and 2) chemicals, such as vanillin, syringaldehyde, dihydroxyacetone, glyceraldehyde, hydroxypyruvic acid, ammonia, and sulfuric acid.

Several i) R&D projects (Agenda ATE, CO2-to-CH4, HyGreen&LowEmissions, LigTech, PhotoBioValue, PIV4Algae) of basic and applied research; ii) Individual research grants (Ariana Pintor, Francisca Moreira, Tânia Silva); and iii) PhD scholarships (Ana Esteves, Bruna Porto, Carla Santos, Daniela Morais, Fabiane Lira, Hugo Bacelo, Joana Monteiro, Larissa Paulista, Leonardo Delgado, Luiz de Sena, Pedro Presumido) have been obtained from competitive agencies (FCT, CCDR-N, PRR, CNPq, CAPES) to acquire specific analytical equipment’s/prototypes as well as to recruit emerging researchers.

The research has been conducted in collaboration with industrial partners, such as AdP VALOR – Serviços Ambientais, S.A., affiliated with Águas de Portugal, a pivotal player in Portugal’s environmental sector covering water supply and wastewater sanitation; EFACEC, a company that develops and delivers integrated solutions in the fields of Energy, Mobility, and Environment; Navigator, a leader Portuguese pulp and paper corporation; CTCOR – the Cork Technological Centre; and the Collaborative Laboratory (CoLAB) NET4CO2, a network for a sustainable CO2 economy.

Major projects in this research area include: