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ENVIRONMENTAL PROCESSES AND POLLUTANTS

Environmental and analytical chemistry aims to advance knowledge on chemical processes and their biogeochemical influence in the environment, as well as to develop accurate and precise analytical procedures that provide reliable and robust data for effective evironmental management. Hence, this research is fundamental for future orientation towards a sustainable and healthy environment, supporting measures to be implemented within the scope of national, international and EU policies.

1) Priority themes within Environmental chemistry
     - Assessment of the distributions of pollutants and their reactivity in water, sediments, soil and biota leading to a quantitative evaluation of their impact.
     - Development and application of new (bio-)remediation strategies for contaminated water, sediments and soils.
     - Assessment of the influence of the properties organic matter on the biogeochemical cycles of pollutants.

2) Priority themes within Analytical chemistry
     - Development and validation of analytical methods for the separation, identification and quantification of trace pollutants.
     - Innovative approaches for Quality Control and Quality Assessment of environmental data and Proficiency Testing.
     - Development and application of new sensors.

A main objective will be to enhance these priority research themes by close collaboration with other research areas such as biology, ecology and materials science.

Future Objectives

The future research objectives, following the orientation of the most recent past years, will focus aspects of environmental chemistry involving the development of innovative analytical methods, as support tool to the interpretation of processes in the biosphere.
The future research will particularly target challenges posed to modern society by key emerging environmental issues (such as those resulting from the so-called trace and/or new emergent pollutants). These objectives will also include the development, testing and validation of advanced methodologies and environmental indicators related to research needs arising from recent and envisaged national and EU environmental legislation.
Near-term future research strategy highlights includes:
     - Environmental risk assessment using biota as a source of information: bio-monitors and bio-indicators, and stress-related biological responses (e.g. metal-binding proteins).
     - Salt marsh ecology and environmental chemistry: the auto-remediation role of salt marshes - plant-bacteria-metals interactions involved in ecosystem remediation.
     - Chemical and structural characterization of organic matter, namely humic and fulvic acids and relation with mobility, bio-availability and degradability of environmental pollutants.
     - Soil protection in a sustainable development, including the role of organic fertilizers.
     - Definition of indicators for soil function analysis, risk assessment and recovery of degraded soils.
     - Development, validation and application of innovative analytical methodologies based on: i) chemical sensors applied to the  detection of contaminants; ii) electrophoresis based on capillaries coated with natural organic matter to study organic matter–pollutants interactions; iii) photoreactions, with or without photosensitizes, of organic pollutants; iv) immunochemical techniques to be applied for analysis of environmental pollutants when at very low concentrations.


These research objectives will be integrated and accomplished through research projects involving multi-disciplinary teams and National and International collaboration.
The foreseen outputs will support an excellent capability for applied research, services to the end-user in industries and transfer of scientific knowledge to society.
In addition to participation in international research projects, international co-operations will continue through mobility of researchers and joint supervisions of post-graduation students (especially in Spain, UK, Germany and the Netherlands).
Scientific outputs will include publications in international peer-reviewed journals (ISI), book chapters, and invited presentations at national and international conferences. We will also train the next generation of scientists in the field of Environmental and Analytical Chemistry via the completion of MSc and PhD theses.

Research Labs

The EEP RG is organized in 3 research laboratories with specificities that justify that division. This structure of EPP RG aims to increase efficiency, to achieve better management and to accommodate the changes proposed in the plan for 2015/20.

Research Lab LOCS

The main objective of the Lab of Environmental Contaminants Assessment and Remediation (LOCS) is the development of new chemical sensors tailored for specific applications. LOCs is coordinated by Maria Teresa Gomes.

Transducers based sensors:                                                                             
Acoustic wave sensors, Potentiometric sensors, Amperometric sensors, Optical sensors

New sensing materials:                                                                                   
Plasticized PVC/ionophores, Molecularly imprinted polymers, Conducting polymers, Pyrrole based synthetized molecules and polyoxometalates, Enzymes, Aptamers

Arrays of sensors:
Electronic noses, Electronic tongues

Fields of applications:                                                                             

Food
• Wine: CO2 and SO2 in winequantification of copper, leadcadmium and irontotal acidity, organic acids, total phenolics, phenolic fractions, classification according to the originPorto wine age predictionMadeira wine age predictionmonitorization of microoxygenation and maceration with oak woodbitterness assessmentastringency assessment
• Beer: quantification of main parameters (fermentation degree, total phenolics, α-acids, etc.)taste assessment.
• Packaging materials: gas sorption, metal contamination by containers: contamination of food cooked in copper or aluminum pansaluminium migration from the can to the beveragesiron migration from tinplate cans.
• Fruits and vegetables: spoilage detectiondiscrimination of onions and shallots, recognition of cultivars and quantification of the main compounds of apples and tomatoes
• Fish: spoilage detectionspecies recognition and spoilage detection
• Vegetable oil: spoilage detection, classification according to the origin
• Pesticide residues: diphenylamine detection
• Dairy products: detection of butter rancidity by flavour sensing,  discrimination between cheese varietiesseparating cheeses according to milk originmilk spoilage detection, mastitis detection
• Honey: determination of 5-hydroxymethylfurfural
• Coffee: classification according to the blend, taste assessment
• Soda: classification, taste assessment
• Spirits: classification according to the brand, contaminants detection, age prediction
• Mineral waters: quantification of the main ions
• Shellfish: quantification of toxins
• Cork: contamination detection

Environment
• Cyanide in industrial waste waters
• VOCs
• Carbon monoxide in exhausting gases
• Metal contamination: measurement of transition metals’ activity in seawater, quantification of chromium(VI)vanadiumuranium and iron at different oxidation states and rare earth metalshardness in tap wateraluminium determination in drinking water
• Anions in water: Fluoride, phosphate, sulphate
• Ammonium ion in water
• Copper toxicity to estuarine bacteria
• Shellfish toxins´ detection
• Direct toxicity assessment of transition metals

Pharmaceuticals and health
• Contamination of glycerol with diethylene glycol
• Lead absorption by porcine skin
• Halitosis evaluation
• Drug permeation through skin
• Bitter taste intensity assessmenttaste masking of active pharmaceutical ingredientscomparison of the electronic tongue with alternative method of bitterness assessment

Detection of phase transitions
• Obtaining Au-Hg phase diagram
• Following HPMC gelation
• Biodiesel pour point determination
• Milk coagulation
• Pasting of maize and rice starch

Industrial analysis
• Fermentation monitoringearly detection of process deviations from N.O.C. quantification of key parametersdiscrimination of microorganisms

Education in chemistry
• Determination of the Faraday Constant
• Corrosion studies


Equipment:
pH meter, Frequency meters, Network/Spectrum/Impedance Analyser, Function generator, Adjustable power supplies, 2 channel oscilloscope, Spin coater, Modular spectrophotometers for absorbance, fluorescence and reflectance, Automatic titrator, Electronic tongue, Electronic nose, Counter/Timer PXI 6608 (National Instruments), High impedance digital voltmeter, Programmable oven, Potentiostat / galvanostat

Prototypes:                                                                                                
Cells for acoustic wave sensors for: Voltammetric studies, Flow injection studies, Permeation studies, Potentiometric electronic tongue