Forging sustainability

RemAS - Magnetic nanoparticle- and biowaste-based strategies for remediation of salt water under multi-stressor conditions (inorganic and emerging pollutants): evaluation of ecological and human risk
Coordinator - Cláudia Batista Lopes
Execution dates - 2013-07-01 - 2015-06-30 (24 Months)
Funding Entity - financiado por fundos nacionais através da FCT/MCTES (PIDDAC) e co-financiado pelo Fundo Europeu de Desenvolvimento Regional (FEDER) através do COMPETE – Programa Operacional Factores de Competitividade (POFC)
Funding for CESAM - 95.346 €
Total Funding - 152.519 €
Proponent Institution - Universidade de Aveiro
Participating Institutions
Universidade de Coimbra


The progressive rise in world population and the increasing need for goods and products, led to production of large amounts of effluents, with high levels of pollutants, and the influx of new contaminants (drugs, personal care products, nanomaterials and other substances of daily use). As a result, of the increasing need for clean water and proliferation of water contaminants and ecological and human health risks, the remediation of contaminated water, is a field of technology that always has attracted much interest, and new approaches are continually being examined to supplement traditional water remediation methods. Most of the remediation studies are intended to fresh water, nevertheless, the salt waters are often the last receptor of pollutants and the source of water used in many aquacultures. The RemAS project aims to fill this gap and its main objectives are:

  • to develop a water treatment technology, based on the application of biowastes and engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) for the removal of inorganic (Hg, Cd, Pb) and emerging (Ag and Au-NPs) contaminants, that coexist in salt waters from aquacultures;

  • to evaluate the real efficiency of the remediation process, through the assessment of ecological risks, and the effects and bioaccumulation in aquaculture species (human risk), with high commercial value, before and after treatment;

  • to derivate the critical values of these pollutants in waters and fish, from legal limits in fish and bioconcentration factor.

The approach of this project allows exploring two of the most promising areas in the field of water treatment: bio- and nano-technology.  Biosorption is an efficient and inexpensive biotechnology, suitable for treating water with a low level of contamination. The use and recycle of organic waste makes this method particularly attractive for environmental remediation. Recently, Gong et al. (2011) used algae in the remediation of NPs, which illustrates the growing interest in this area and the potential of bioremediation to treat water, contaminated with emerging pollutants. Many expectations are created concerning the application of nanotechnology in water treatment and some authors argue that most of the problems related with water quality could be solved by the use of products/processes resulting from this technology. However, the application of nanotechnology for this purpose is raising some issues related to the potential toxicity of these materials, for both humans and ecosystems. This project will use biological wastes (used cork stoppers, rice husk and algae) and magnetic ENPs specifically designed and synthesized by members of this team. Recent studies carried out in this group showed that magnetic ENPs and biowastes (submitted data) present a high ability to remove metals. Furthermore, the small amount of material required and its reuse possibility makes the remediation process economically viable. To evaluate the efficiency of this technology, the levels of pollutants will be quantified after treatment, and in addition ecotoxicological assays will be performed to the materials and water, before and after treatment.

The effects of exposure of fish to metals and NPs, and the bioaccumulation of contaminants in different tissues, will be evaluated in nearly real conditions using water and a species produced in aquaculture. These tests will allow the evaluation of ecological and human risk as well as the understanding of the transfer phenomena of metals and NPs from water to the food chain. The same study will be conducted using treated water.

The novel aspects of this proposal are the development of a methodology for remediation of waters, based on bio- and nano- technology and its application in salt waters, under the influence of multi-contaminants (metal/ENPs). This project also aims to address the lack of information on the efficiency of treatment processes under real conditions; the interactions between pollutants and between pollutants and aquatic species; the toxicity of ENPs and mixtures (metals/ENPs) and the potential transfer of ENPs to the food chain.

This project involves a multidisciplinary team, with researchers from the Departments of Chemistry and Biology of University of Aveiro, incorporated in CESAM and from CFE of University of Coimbra, with wide experience in water remediation; synthesis/characterization of ENPs; assessment of metal contamination in environmental and biological matrices and in the conduce of ecotoxicity tests. Also involves the participation of two companies ACUINOVA and Alvaro Borges Lda.

Members on this project
Amadeu Soares


principal researcher

CESAM Funding: