The EMCEI-24 Steering Committee has invited and also received requests from renowned distinguished scientists from over the world to offer plenaries on cross-cutting themes of environmental sciences, with a primary focus on Conference Tracks. We wish to express gratitude to the following scientists who have agreed to serve as plenary speakers (click to open content):

Plenary 1: Promising technologies for the degradation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) applied to contaminated water

In his plenary, Prof. Eric D. van Hullebusch will talk about the removal of Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from contaminated water. PFAS are a group of fluorinated organic anthropogenic chemicals that are resistant to degradation. Numerous sources contribute to the widespread PFAS contamination of surface and groundwater. These include AFFF training facilities, contaminated biosolids applications, contaminated landfill leachate, wastewater and water treatment plant discharges, and industrial and commercial manufacturing facilities that produce or use PFAS. Because of the health risks associated with PFAS contamination in groundwater, surface water, irrigation water, and drinking water. There has recently been a great focus on developing practical and effective water treatment technologies. Those that have been developed thus far have included adsorptive and destructive methods. The C-F bond and the refractory character of PFAS have made developing destructive treatments challenging. A number of destructive techniques for PFAS in polluted water have been investigated for their potential to be treated, including among others persulfate, sonolysis, electrochemical oxidation, and biodegradation. After introducing the main concentrating technologies for PFAS, this talk will be dedicated to the presentation of the most promising treatment technologies. The operating parameters as well as the impact of the water matrix composition on the PFAS degradation rates and yields will be discussed. Finally, a discussion on the PFAS degradation pathways with the possible occurrence of potentially toxic intermediates will be given.

Eric D. van Hullebusch is a Full Professor of biogeochemistry of engineered ecosystems since 2018. He received his PhD (Aquatic Chemistry and Microbiology) from Université de Limoges (France) in 2002. From November 2002 until October 2004 he was a Marie Curie Postdoctoral fellow at Wageningen University & Research (the Netherlands) where his research focused on the optimization of anaerobic granular sludge reactors by studying the speciation, bioavailability and dosing strategies of trace metals. In 2005, he was appointed as associate professor in biogeochemistry of engineered ecosystems at Université Paris-Est (France). From September 2016 until August 2018, he worked at IHE Delft as chair professor in Environmental Science and Technology and head of the Pollution Prevention and Resource Recovery chair group. In September 2018, he joined Institute de Physique du Globe de Paris (France) as full professor in biogeochemistry of engineered ecosystems. Prof. van Hullebusch has published more than 280 peer-reviewed papers (14500+ citations, h-index 63) in the field of biogeochemistry of metals and metalloids in engineered ecosystems. His research is currently mostly focusing on the implementation of biohydrometallurgical approaches for the recovery of technology critical elements as well as polluted soils (bio)remediation with a particular focus on Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Plenary 2: Exopolysaccharides from marine microalgae – Challenges and recent developments

In his plenary, Prof. Philippe Michaud will talk about the Exopolysaccharides from marine microalgae: the challenges and recent developments. Marine organisms are one of the most underuti-lized biological resources. The extreme diversity of microalgae, unicellular photosynthetic organisms that are known to produce large quantities of polysaccharides, makes them very attractive for bioprospecting and potential exploitation as commercial sources of exopoly-saccharides. Indeed, exopolysaccharides from microalgae have been poorly studied com-pared to those from bacteria, fungi, terrestrial plants or macroalgae. Approaches of bio-chemistry, physico-chemistry, process engineering and microbiology were conducted. Their main objective was to increase the level of knowledge about the production of soluble poly-saccharides with original structures by microalgae from marine and freshwater environ-ments. They intended to develop the scientific background necessary for the industrial ex-ploitation of these exopolysaccharides as hydrocolloids and/or biological active agents and to evaluate economic and environmental impacts of large-scale production. Correlations be-tween original and published structures of exopolysaccharides and the taxonomic affiliation of microalgae producers have been highlighted for the first time. The implementation of physiological stress strategy led to accumulation of exopolysaccharides during microalgae cultivation. After their depolymerization some polysaccharides have been sucessfully tested as anti-age care and slimming agent. Other ones revealed unusual texturant properties as fluid gel behavior. This study was conducted in collaboration with C. Gaignard, N. Bridiau, I. Probert, D. Lecerf, L. Picton, and T. Maugard from France.

Philippe Michaud is a Full Professor of biochemistry since 2005. He is head of the "4Bio" re-search group at the Institut Pascal, an interdisciplinary research laboratory of Clermont Au-vergne University. He was head of the biological engineering department of Polytech Cler-mont, a school of engineering of the Clermont Auvergne University, between 2012 and 2020. His scientific skills focuse on the development of bioprocesses for obtaining polysac-charides from various sources and analysis of structure-function relationships. He has pub-lished 257 research papers and 21 book chapters. He is the co-inventor of 14 patents, 3 them leading to industrial exploitation. He has been the advisor or co-advisor for 25 PhD students. Since 2005, he has been in charge of more than 20 national and international re-search projects, funded or co-funded by the industry. He was the general secretary of Inter-national Forum on Industrial Bioprocessing Association (an international Forum on Indus-trial Bioprocesses – IBA-IFIBiop) between 2015 and 2018 and winner of Distinguished Sci-entist Award for the year 2021-2022 by the IBA. He is deputy editor of Bioengineered, chief editor of Euro-Mediterranean Journal for Environmental Integration (topic 2) and associate or guest editors of numerous international journals. He is elected member of the University French Council (Conseil National des Universités) and nominated member of an evaluation Committee (CE43 Bioeconomy) at the French Research Agency (ANR). He has been nomi-nated as Chevalier des palmes académiques of the French government in 2020.

Plenary 3: Advanced oxidation processes – Treatment processes of the 21st century

In his plenary, Prof. Chedly Tizaoui will talk about advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) and their contribution to addressing several of the environmental challenges. AOPs are those processes that produce highly reactive radical species in sufficient quantities to oxidise contaminants in a medium, such as water. In water, AOPs are commonly known as those that are based on the primary oxidants of ozone, hydrogen peroxide and UV light. Other AOPs based on ultrasound, catalysts, wet air oxidation, non-thermal plasma have also been researched and studied for the degradation of organics and occasionally inorganics too. Hydroxyl radicals, which are the neutral form of hydroxide ions, are the strongest oxidants that can be applied to treat water. They are unselective, can lead to complete mineralisation of an organic pollutant, and their rate of reaction is very high; often the process proceeds at the diffusion-controlled rate. Depending on the nature of the organic contaminant, the initial attack of OH can proceed via abstraction of a hydrogen atom (e.g. from alkanes, or alcohols) or it can add itself to olefins and aromatic compounds. In a treatment process and for a given reagent combination, the operating conditions, particularly dosages, must be controlled to maximise the production yield of OH. This talk will review the science and engineering of key AOPs and highlight how these processes will address considerable environmental challenges, qualifying them as the “treatment processes of the 21st century”. The talk will also demonstrate key barriers related to the implementation of AOPs and future AOP-research needs.

Chedly Tizaoui is a Full Professor of Chemical Engineering at Swansea University (UK) and is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Ozone: Science and Engineering (T&F). He received his EPSRC- sponsored PhD (Chemical Engineering – Water Treatment) from Bradford University (UK) in 2001. Prior to completing his PhD, he was offered a Lectureship at Bradford University where he started his academic career before moving to Nottingham University and then Swansea University in 2010. Tizaoui has research interests in Advanced Oxidation Processes (AOPs) including ozonation, non- thermal plasma, UV radiation, photocatalysis, and other catalytic processes as means to eradicate contaminants in water and wastewater. His research also spans over a range of advanced physical treatment processes including membranes and filtration and their combination with AOPs. Tizaoui is currently leading the Water and Resources Recovery research lab, working on research projects to tackle several water and other environmental challenges. Tizaoui has extensively published peer- reviewed scientific articles in leading water, environmental, and chemical engineering research journals, book chapters, and conferences, and authored numerous professional reports. His research has been supported by grants from various sources including research councils (e.g. EPSRC, BBSRC, the EU), industry, and government funding. Tizaoui was the Director of the Chemical and Environmental Engineering programmes at Swansea University, and he is a Fellow of the UK Institution of Chemical Engineers (FIChemE).

Plenary 4: Microplastics in the environment

In their plenary, Teresa A. P. Rocha-Santos and João Pinto da Costa will talk about microplastics physico-chemical properties and fate, distribution, and impact in the environment. They will provide an analytical chemistry perspective regarding the identification and quantification of microplastics in environmental samples that remain difficult after 10 years of research in the field. Methodologies such as the use of staining dyes and visual inspection using microscopy provide a high percentage of false positives and should only be considered to the identification of suspected particles. Pyrolysis-Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry, micro-Raman Spectroscopy and micro-Infrared Spectroscopy are used but the analysis is still difficult and time consuming. Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC) is of paramount importance in sampling, sample handling and analysis and the lack or reduced QA/QC measures can provide false positive identification of microplastics. Moreover, for example most of the sorption studies are made without taking into consideration environmentally relevant concentrations and conditions, optimization of conditions using statistical methods, studies on the monitoring of microplastics and other compounds in the same environmental samples are scarce.

Teresa Rocha-Santos has graduated in Analytical Chemistry (1996), obtained a PhD in Chemistry (2000) and an Aggregation in Chemistry (2018), both at the University of Aveiro, Portugal. In 2001, she was awarded with a prize for her PhD studies. Presently, she is a Principal Researcher with Aggregation/Habilitation at Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies (CESAM) & Department of Chemistry of University of Aveiro (since 2014) and Vice-Coordinator of CESAM (since 2021). Her research concentrates on the development of new analytical methodologies fit for purpose and on the study of emerging contaminants (such as microplastics) fate and behaviour in the environment and during wastewater treatment. She published more than 200 scientific papers and has an h-index of 57 (Jan 2024, SCOPUS). She is the editor of 7 Books and 1 Handbook. She is Associate Editor of JHM and Co-editor in Chief of JHM Advances. Since 2020 she is in the TOP 2% most cited researchers (DOI: 10.17632/btchxktzyw.4) and since 2022 she is a highly cited researcher (Clarivate, 2022- 2023).

João Pinto da Costa graduated in Biotechnological Engineering in 2005 and soon thereafter completed his Masters in Medical Diagnostics at Cranfield University (UK), he obtained his PhD in Environmental Chemistry in 2014. Presently, João is an Assistant Researcher at the Department of Chemistry and the Center for Environmental and Marine Studies (CESAM) at the University of Aveiro in Portugal. He is currently the author or co-authors of nearly 80 peer-reviewed papers, 6 Books/Book Chapters and the co-inventor of a registered patent. João is an Editor for Journal of Hazardous Materials, as well as for Water Emerging Contaminants & Nanoplastics. His works are mostly centered in the fields of Earth and Environmental Sciences, with some emphasis on Chemical Sciences and Analytical Chemistry. His current h-index is 34 and he ranks among the most influential researchers in 2022.

Plenary 5: Mussel-inspired membrane coatings for environmental applications

  • Daniel Ruiz-Molina

    Daniel Ruiz-Molina

    Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2), CSIC and BIST
    Campus UAB, Barcelona, Spain
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In his plenary, Prof. Daniel Ruiz-Molina will talk about mussel-inspired membrane coatings for environmental applications Over the last years, membranes have addressed main environmental challenges such as pollutant removal and degradation, gas and carbon capture, microbial detection and elimination or oil spill control, among many others. Some of their advantages are separation efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and the large variety of materials that can be used with this aim. However, there are still many challenges that must face, one of the main ones being finding universal mechanisms that allow their functionalization. Interfacial chemistry modulates and improves the trapping, retention, and elimination mechanisms of membranes with respect to the various (bio)elements that they must safely remove. Inspired by the wet adhesion of mussels to almost any kind of surface, one of the most widespread methodologies used over the last years to control the functionalization, biocompatibility, adhesion, bioactivity, and wettability of surfaces has been the melanin-like oxidative polymerization of dopamine in-to polydopamine (PDA), followed by its functionalization with appropriate functional groups. To date and following this approach, in our group we have described functional coatings whose composition and thickness can be fine-tuned over a wide range of surfaces (metals, fabrics, polymers, paper and filters), and subsequently functionalized with other (bio)molecules of interest (e.g., biocides). Representative successful examples as water and air filters with enhanced remediation capabilities, including control over the wettability (hydrophobic/hydrophilic), oil absorption, roughness and the ability to trap different types of particles and pathogens, will be revised in his presentation.

Daniel Ruiz-Molina is a Full Professor of Materials Sciences and Nanotechonolgy of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and Editor of the journal Biomimetics. He earned his PhD in polyradical dendrimers at the Institut de Ciència de Materials de Barcelona (ICMAB-CSIC) and afterwards took a postdoctoral position at the University of California San Diego (USA), where he spent three years working on smart molecular materials. Since 2001 he holds a permanent position as a (CSIC) researcher, most recently at the ICN2, where he is the leader of the Nanostructured Functional Materials Group (NanosFun). His main research areas include the fabrication, characterization, and application of functional nanostructures for environmental and medical applications. He has published over 200 peer-reviewed scientific articles in leading environmental, and chemical engineering research journals, book chapters, and conferences, and authored numerous professional reports. He has been also very active in industrial collaborations and working in very applied research, setting up so far four startups in areas related with environment and health.

Plenary 6: Designing membranes through Atomic Layer Deposition for energy and environmental applications

  • Mikhael Bechelany

    Mikhael Bechelany

    Directeur de recherche CNRS
    Institut Européen des Membranes (IEMM, ENSCM UM CNRS UMR5635)
    Montpellier, France
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In his plenary, Prof. Mikhael Bechelany will talk about designing membranes through Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) for energy and environmental applications. ALD is a cutting-edge technology that enables the creation of thin films using high-quality materials on substrates with high aspect ratios. This process provides precise thickness control, uniformity, and exceptional conformality, making it particularly well-suited for the structural modification and pore tailoring of synthetic membranes. ALD coatings have been successfully applied to a diverse range of membrane substrates, from inorganic templated supports to porous polymers. His plenary aim to offer a comprehensive overview of the advancements made in applying ALD to membrane technology.

Drawing upon a selected list of his studies, Prof. Bechelany will illustrate how ALD can be effectively utilized to enhance the operational performance of various types of membranes, including inorganic, organic, hybrid, or composite membranes. Examples will showcase how ALD can be instrumental in designing membranes with accurately tunable geometries, allowing for a systematic exploration of the dependence of physical-chemical properties on geometric parameters. This approach enables a thorough investigation of membrane performance in renewable energy applications such as gas separation and osmotic energy harvesting, as well as in environmental applications such as water treatment and sensors.

Additionally, Prof. Bechelany will discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with the ALD route for membrane applications. This presentation provides a comprehensive overview of the advantages of ALD and its applications across different facets of membranes and membrane- associated engineering processes. It aims to illuminate the diverse opportunities in this emerging and rapidly evolving field.

Mikhael Bechelany is a CNRS Research Director at the European Institute of Membranes (IEM) of the University of Montpellier, France. He obtained his PhD in Materials Chemistry from the University of Lyon (France) in 2006, under the supervision of Prof. P. Miele and guidance of Prof. D. Cornu. His doctoral work was focused on the synthesis and characterization of 1D nanostructures (nanotubes, nanowires, and nanocables) based on boron and silicon. He then worked as a postdoctoral researcher at EMPA in Thun (Switzerland), where his activities involved the fabrication of nanomaterials (nanoparticles and nanowires), their organization, and nanomanipulation for applications in various fields such as photovoltaics, robotics, and the development of chemical and biological sensors.

In 2010, he joined the European Institute of Membranes (UMR CNRS 5635) in Montpellier (France) as a CNRS Researcher. His work focuses on the development of new synthesis methods such as Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD), electrospinning, and 3D printing for the formation of nanomaterials (metals and ceramics). Additionally, he conducts research on nanostructuring using natural lithography techniques involving nanospheres and/or membranes.

His research activities primarily revolve around the fabrication of inorganic membranes including oxides and non-oxides for specific applications, particularly in the fields of energy (osmotic energy and hydrogen separation), health (cell proliferation and controlled drug delivery), and environment (sensors, biosensors, and water purification).

His work is carried out in collaboration with academic and industrial partners, as well as within various national or European projects. Dr. Bechelany has also established numerous national and international collaborations. He serves as a co-editor for the “Journal of Colloid and Interface Science” and is a member of the editorial boards of “Applied Surface Science Advances” and “International Journal of Bioprinting.” He is also the editor-in-chief of a section in “Nanomaterials” and a section in “Sensors.” As of End-2023, he has authored 330 high-impact publications, presented 44 conference papers, contributed to 16 book chapters, and holds 15 patents (h-index = 75). Furthermore, he has been involved in the co-founding of 5 start-ups.