WHAT IS THE CHALLENGE?
There is a growing need for more effective removal of pollutants from emissions to air, water and soil. Many of these releases are a result of human activities, including different types of industrial processes, but growth in consumption is also adding to pollution.
Whatever the source, abatement technology needs to be improved. Not least because existing solutions, often based on a variety of filters and membranes, cannot intercept every kind of pollutant, especially not substances present in small quantities.
Another limitation with current solutions is that they lack the ability to adapt to changing conditions, for example in industrial processes, where pH values, temperature and pollutant levels can rapidly fluctuate. Existing filters, moreover, have to be carefully monitored to maintain their performance.
HOW CAN THE PROGRAMME CONTRIBUTE TO A SOLUTION?
The programme aims to develop materials with an ability to communicate with users, so as to achieve more uniform and efficient removal of pollutants. This will involve both refining existing technologies and producing new, smarter materials.
Mistra TerraClean will work on four different materials that can be manufactured in Sweden. Swedish scientists are at the forefront of research into these materials, which are judged to have considerable potential to reduce emissions, and which can in addition be produced sustainably.
Another aim is to develop materials and technologies that can adapt the way they function when something in the input changes. The vision is to create filters which are controlled by various physical signals, depending on the emissions, and which are able to communicate how they will perform the tasks they are faced with.
In practical terms, it will be a matter of developing materials from the ground up, providing them with smart functionality, and testing them in case studies based on real-life conditions, in collaboration with industrial partners. Long-term goals are to ensure that the materials can be used and recycled without risk to humans or the environment, and to provide a platform for new expertise and for Swedish competitiveness in the area of interactive environmental technology and advanced materials for a sustainable society.
WHO WILL BENEFIT FROM THE RESULTS?
Anyone responsible for an industrial or municipal operation that causes emissions harmful to health or the environment stands to benefit from the results. The programme will therefore be working with power producers, mining companies, the pulp industry and the pharmaceuticals sector to develop and test new solutions.
Municipal wastewater treatment plants, which often have difficulty removing drug residues from sewage, are also expected to benefit from the programme.
The Mistra TerraClean consortium consists of several universities and research institutes. These include KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm University, Uppsala University, Swetox – Academic Research Centre for Chemicals, Health and Environment, IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, and SwedNanoTech, an umbrella organisation for the Swedish nanotechnology sector. The consortium also includes a number of companies.