Project coordinator: dr. Milena Horvat, IJS
Coordinator for NIB: dr. Jadran Faganeli
Due to mercury (Hg) toxicity, cumulative health effects and potential for accumulation in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems has resulted in extensive research of its emissions, transport, reactions and fate in various environmental matrices as well as effects on human health and environmental sustainability. Mercury is released into environment from a various anthropogenic and natural sources. Mercury exists in a large number of physical and chemical forms with a wide range of properties and the conversion between these different forms provides the basis for mercury’s complex distribution pattern in local and global cycles and for its biologic enrichment and effects. Because of continuing concern over mercury in the environment and its deleterious effects on human health, obtaining new mercury detection methods that are sensitive, selective, rapid, facile, cost-effective and applicable to environmental and industrial settings is an important goal. The basic idea of this proposal is to develop effective and robust sensors for aqueous mercury detection that can operate autonomously for longer periods of time, while at the same time ensure continuous high quality data, by combining the existing state-of-the-art technologies with still experimental and theoretical approaches. The sensors developed will be based on (1) the classical chemical principles but adopted for continuous on-line measurement modes in industrial (wet scrubber in the flue gas desulphurisation) and environmental settings (former mercury contaminated site); (2) improved understanding of the biosensors performance in contaminated sites; and (3) optical chemical sensors principles using interactions with nanoparticles for use in industrial and environmental applications. The combination of sensors will allow the determination of the following species in the aqueous solutions: dissolved elemental mercury (DGM), divalent mercury (Hg(II)) compounds, and bioavailable Hg fractions. The goal is also to ensure that sensors have appropriate sensitivity to operate at relevant concentration. Metrological support will be elaborated along with sensors development to provide comparable results, which requires well set calibration procedures to secure traceable measurement results. The sensors will be applied in former mercury mining area and the industrial settings (FGD) and will be combined with the development of improved modelling tools for both environmental and industrial applications that will be based on real-time modelling approach. The project combines the complimentary expertise of two public research institutions and two SMEs in Slovenia and four well experienced international partners from Norway, Italy, Russia. The interdisciplinary (analytical chemistry, geochemistry, microbiology, and engineering) and inter-sectorial research environment (public and private partnership), in which young researchers will also be involved, will provide unique opportunity for transfer basic research results into practise and provide excellent grounds for young researcher’s career development. Moreover, the project is timely and relevant due to research and policy priorities set by the EU framework programme related to Environment and Climate Change, and will enable effective collaboration in EU consortia and provide forums for further exploitation of the project results.