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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/K026216/1
Title: Cleaning Land for Wealth
Principal Investigator: Kirwan, Professor KE
Other Investigators:
Harvey, Professor AP Barker, Dr G Book, Professor D
Coles, Dr SR Longhurst, Professor P Horsfall, Professor L
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: WMG
Organisation: University of Warwick
Scheme: IDEAS Factory Sandpits
Starts: 01 March 2013 Ends: 01 August 2016 Value (£): 2,488,954
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Assess/Remediate Contamination Waste Management
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
This project addresses the challenge of treating contaminated land to recover materials for future use and economic gain. All existing work on land remediation is energy and/or resource intensive and focuses on sequestering contaminants with no attempt to recover them as a resource. Currently there are few genuine economic drivers to motivate decontamination and land recovery even though many sites contain substantial amounts of valuable minerals. The resource costs for land treatment are prohibitive for dilute and dispersed sites. Recent estimates suggest that there are approximately 300,000 hectares of land in the UK affected to some extent by industrial or natural contamination. In Western Europe 350,000 contaminated sites with an estimated treatment cost of 350bn euros have been identified. Globally, substantial land contamination exists though this is poorly quantified.

This project will deliver bio-manufactured, functionalised, Nano-particles and other high value products from contaminated land. We will utilise the ability of plants to preferentially take metals out of the ground in significant quantities (hyperaccumulate). We will then recover those metals via a combination of synthetic biology and process engineering and develop "bio-factories" that turn those metals into metallic nanoparticles via bacteria. During the recovery process we will also utilise microbes to break the lignocellulose parts of the crops into valuable materials like DHA, Vanillin and other chemical or polymer feedstocks.

As part of the bio-factory process, we will functionalise the nanoparticles so that they have industrial significance and hence maximise their value. We have selected two common polluting targets - arsenic (As) and platinum group metals (PGM) - which are generated by industrial processes and pollute large amounts of land and water courses which endanger health, preventing human habitation or other forms of exploitation. As nanoparticles are used to treat aggressive cancers and PGM nanoparticles are used in a wide range of applications such as catalysis, fuel cells and batteries. We also expect to develop new opportunities for these and similar materials as the research progresses.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.warwick.ac.uk