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INCA Consortium

Mid/long Term Research Plan (Macro-area II)

Excerpt from

Research plan of the INCA Consortium

Prepared by the Scientific Board in March 2010

Macro-area II - Technologies

A) Clean Technologies and Renewable Energy Sources

A sustainable industrial development must take into consideration issues such as environmental impact, energy consumption, valorisation of raw materials and the quality of end products. To this end, it is necessary to understand the molecular mechanisms which allow chemical transformations. In this way, it is possible to devise new eco-compatible and sustainable processes. Two classical examples are the decreasing use of separation processes based on state passage with heating and the increasing utilization of membrane-based molecular separation.

The use of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, and saline gradients is particularly relevant, along with the net energetic balance and yield of each productive phase. Such alternative energies are well coupled with non-thermal separation processes, which are conducted at room temperature or at just slightly higher ones.

Studies about the integration of new energy sources with separation processes and chemical transformation are really important. Photochemical reactors and submerged membranes reactors (already considered as the best available technologies for the treatment of civil wastewaters) are some of the interesting research fields, with notable potential for development and use in several productive cycles.

Membrane Bio-reactors (MBRs) are an emerging technology for the depuration of waters, they combine the use of suspended biomass, similar to that of activated-sludge plants, with a membrane system. MBRs display several advantages with respect to classical water treatments: wider operational range, high robustness with respect to peaks in the incoming load, smaller dimensions, possible automation for most of the operations, reduced need for manpower and maintenance, reduced sensitivity to changes in hydraulic fluxes, and easy scaling-up for treatments ranging from 1 to 100,000 cubic meters per day.

B) Process Intensification

At present, it is extremely difficult for chemical industries to satisfy the growing need for raw matters, energy, and products in a sustainable development framework, future challenges will concern: i) intensification and multi-scale control of processes, ii) devising of new operations and methodologies, iii) the identification of new procedures to guarantee the high quality standards

March 2010 Page 1 of 5

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