Mercury Technological Centre
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Use of solar energy for the decontamination of sites or matrices contaminated with mercury

  Participating organisations: The Spanish Centre for Energy, Environment and Technology Research (CIEMAT), CENIM and CTNDM
Duration: 2011
This development proposal responds to research into ground-breaking technology to reduce the impact of mercury in soil, sludge and water using solar energy.

A solar oven is used to process soils and sludges. Thermal stripping tests are performed and the effectiveness of the method is evaluated in different matrices to optimise the temperature ramps. For the decontamination of liquid effluent, different options are studied, assessing the optimum temperature and, as in the case of solid matrices, using solar-powered devices.

Preliminary studies at basic research level suggest that these techniques could be used on a larger scale. Accordingly, we are studying the development of a mobile pilot plant at a preindustrial level with technology that can be transferred to other countries, including developing countries, since solar energy is an endless natural resource.

The project provides for studies on different matrices (solids and liquids) and the application of the systems and devices considered the most efficient. The advantage of the proposed research is the use of solar energy, which is available on almost every scenario (mercury mining, storage and deposit, gold mining, etc.). This contributes to the principles of sustainability, respect for the environment and the rational use of resources. It also favours “in-situ and “on-site” treatments as the most suitable.

Following a preliminary bibliographic search on the decontamination of mercury-contaminated wastes using solar energy, it was found that little work has been done in this regard and that which does exist is mainly at the basic research level. This means that development on a meso and industrial scale is a promising field of applied research and know how transfer. The purpose is not only to establish a work methodology, but also, under agreement with the collaborators involved, the development of a future treatment plant for use and export, provided the project is successful.
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