Water and energy

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Solar power

This area involves the Processes and Materials for Solar Energy unit (the CNRS’ and UPVD’s PROMES UPR8521) and the Montpellier Hydroscience unit (HSM combining the CNRS, the IRD and UM).

The research conducted by PROMES is focused on concentrated solar power processes and associated solar system materials for using solar photocatalysis to purify, desalinate and treat pollutants. Needless to say, these solar processes can be widely implemented in southern countries which have relatively underdeveloped electricity systems, but which enjoy high sunshine levels and which have large areas of desert.

For this purpose, two of the UPVD’s professors have served as associate professors at the 2iE since 2009, the West Africa Federal Institute based in Burkina Faso which trains engineers in civil engineering, water treatment, biofuels and solar power.

Energy storage

In another field, the development and integration of renewable energies (the energy transition more generally) require energy storage units. The sheer quantities of the materials needed for such storage systems will most likely lead to problems with the availability of resources and conflicts over what they are used for. For the last ten years or so, PROMES has been developing storage systems using natural or recycled materials in compliance with the principles of sustainable development. The 2iE has been doing this in Europe, as well as in West Africa, using laterite and industrial waste from coal-fired power plants.

Water quality

HSM conducts work into water quality and the implications it has on ecotoxicology and people's health. It is very present in West Africa (Burkina Faso) and North Africa (Morocco). In particular, it is involved in developing chemical analysis procedures for detecting the presence of organic and inorganic chemical contaminants in complex environments and bioanalysis procedures for detecting the levels of associated toxicity.

At laboratory level, a research director is developing innovative advanced oxidation processes based on the photo-Fenton reaction and involving solar power and the in situ production of sulphate radicals for the treatment of urban wastewater, the aim being to reuse it (for irrigation) or even use it as drinking water.

The analytical expertise that HSM has developed serves as a means of assessing the efficacy of these new processes. The reduction in the level of contaminants and toxicity during the course of treatment can be measured, and the degradation mechanisms of contaminants can be identified.

Solar power as a means of improving water quality

The collaborative research undertaken by PROMES and HSM is underpinned by complementary expertise. The current aim of the joint work is to develop solar power treatment plants that are inexpensive to run, have little impact on the environment and which can be moved so that they can be used at various different locations in southern countries. PROMES designs solar detoxification plants (photoreactors), while HSM provides expertise in assessing water quality. Both laboratories are involved in improving the catalytic processes. This joint research is currently being carried out within the framework of the European Nanowat project (2012-2015, ENPI-CBC-MED programme).

Seawater desalination

For seawater desalination, PROMES is involved in developing concentrated processes which generate zero emissions – a complete break with the industrial processes currently use.

Solar power and housing

As part of another strategic strand of research focused on energy transition, the UPVD's LAMPS laboratory is involved in research into energy for housing (particularly for countries in Africa and Asia), as well as sustainable energy processes (such as drying and decontaminating waste gas) for use in emerging countries.

The impact of these processes on urban development

This work is starting to take shape as part of a collaborative initiative with ART-DEV. One of the areas of research in which ART-DEV is involved is the question of resources and energy. The expertise that both northern and southern countries have in economics and urban development can be used to create major new synergies between exact sciences and human sciences.

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Date of update June 19, 2015