FCT

R&D Institutions

Resultado da avaliação 2007 na área de Ciências da Terra e do Espaço

Unidade de I&D

Centro de Investigação em Geo-Ambiental e Recursos - CIGAR [EASP-Norte-Porto-668] visitada em 30/01/2009

Classificação: Good

Comentários do painel de avaliação
Sobre a unidade
Overview
This unit is located within the Mining Department of the Engineering Faculty, University of Porto. The number of students entering this Unit is restricted by Faculty policy which means that members are obliged to do service teaching. The Unit concentrates on such topics as urban and environmental geology and has a variety of strands in its research strategy. Some Groups have met expectations at an international level. However, a significant amount of the work done is within the applied field, which is often of local importance, but difficult to publish internationally. We note that the Unit is developing its international profile by working with such international bodies as NATO and by publishing the results of its research in specialist international conferences. We accept that these are legitimate forms of internationalisation especially in the field of engineering geology. There is a tendency to broaden the range of research by increasing the number of topics rather than the number of researchers working on a given theme. This strategy has led to the establishment of small Groups which may not be sustainable in the long term. We also note that several highly relevant applied projects have reached the pilot plant stage and trust that these are to be commercialised either through 'campus companies' or through the established links with industry.

Management
There is strong, inspiring overall leadership with a forceful and wide vision and each group has its own scientific leader.

Facilities
The Unit enjoys access to clean, well equipped labs.

Recommendations to the Unit
The Unit needs to develop a strategy for increasing its international publications and to present the international aspects of their research better. We also recommend that, in future, small Groups with similar interests are amalgamated into larger more sustainable groupings that should also improve the training environment. The Unit as a whole should develop a strategy to ensure its current high standard of leadership is maintained in future years.

Commendations
We note that this diverse and productive Unit was created within a Mining Department, building on previous academic traditions. We would like to commend the good professional reputation of Unit and its links to community and industry.

Conclusions
The Unit is producing good solid theoretical and applied science at the national level and in some areas, at the international level. We feel that the Unit must concentrate on further internationalisation of its products and particularly develop strategies for doing this with the more applied research. We currently rate the Unit as Good. This is a Unit in which one or few groups did high quality international research which leads to some contributions to the field while most groups did good, solid research at international level leading to incremental contributions to the field.
Sobre os grupos de investigação
Dispersion and multi-phase equilibrium of contaminants in the environment [RG-X-EASP-Norte-Porto-668-1861]
Introduction
This was a small group of researchers that ceased to exist after 2006, evolving, along with 668-1864 (Phenomenology involved in Geo-Environmental Technologies) into new groups (principally 668-1867, Risk Analysis and Management) in the CIGAR Unit from 2007.

Focus, Relevance and Feasibility of the Research Aims
The work of this engineering-based group covered a very wide range of areas, including the construction of models of release, transport, fate and dispersion of disparate entities, such as radioactive wastes and petroleum hydrocarbons, in the environment and the application of statistics to urban climatology. Despite the lack of focus, the work of the group led to some contributions to knowledge and understanding at national level and minor contributions at international level, especially concerning radium and radon releases from uranium tailings. The overly diffuse nature of the group’s research aims, however, was recognised by the decision to disband the group and form new groups on Risk Analysis and Management (668-1867) and Impact of Radiations (668-2469-573) for 2007-2010, to focus more clearly on specific environmental priorities.

Productivity (including evidence of international levels of attainment)
Although small, the group achieved only a moderate level of productivity in terms of publications. None of these were in peer-reviewed international journals for the 2003-2006 period. There were other publications, however, mainly conference proceedings, which featured the issues surrounding uranium tailings, including potential human exposure to radionuclides.

Training
The group provided a reasonable research training environment, but output was comparatively low at 1 PhD and 1 MSc thesis completed in the 2003-2006 period, although involvement in an International Masters Programme with South America was to be commended.

Overall Perspective
The overall achievements of this group during the 2003-2006 period were perhaps below expectations with at best only some indication of the impact and relevance of this work at international level. With respect to the future, however, its disbandment and the formation of more focussed new groups were realistic.
Geo-environmental Technologies, Characterization and Operations in the Subsoil [RG-EASP-Norte-Porto-668-1865]
Introduction
This is a medium-sized group of researchers that evolved, in 2007, from the previous group 668-1858 (Physical Characterisation of the Subsoil, essentially by Geo-physical Methods).

Focus, Relevance and Feasibility of the Research Aims
The general research focus is on public works and civil engineering, by characterizing structural properties and defaults of soil and subsoil massifs: specifically, application of geophysical methods, especially ground-penetrating radar, to the investigation of predominantly local applications, which are diverse in type, e.g. urban road tunnelling, forensic, archaeological etc. Geostatistical techniques are largely employed in mapping the acquired data. These are topical research areas in the Earth Sciences, especially in urban geology, which are of obvious local importance and would be expected, through relevant collaborations, to lead to significant contributions to knowledge and understanding at national level and some contributions at international level. There are interesting developments with jet grouting equipment, enhancing the range of expertise.

Productivity (including evidence of international levels of attainment)
For its size, the group has achieved a moderate level of productivity in terms of publications. Few of these, however, are currently in peer-reviewed international journals, although it is recognised that this form of output may not be as appropriate in this particular field. There have been publications based on presentations at international conferences such as 33rd World Tunnel Congress (2007), 14th European Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (2007) and the 3rd International Conference on Site Characterization (2008).

Training
The group provides a good research training environment.

Overall Perspective
This newly structured group is based on previous groups whose overall achievements and potential met expectations with some relevance of this work at international level. Future plans and objectives are reasonable and realistic. The proposed work may lead to outcomes of national and international relevance and importance.
Impact of Radiations [RG-EASP-Norte-Porto-668-2469]
Introduction
This is a very small, newly constituted group.

Focus, Relevance and Feasibility of the Research Aims
The specific research focus, on “Radioactivity Surveillance of Drinking Water Distribution Systems”, is built around the PhD thesis work of the key researcher. It is proposed that the work will be carried out as part of an EU collaborative project with a number of partners in other EU countries. This is a topical research area in the Earth and Environmental Sciences which would be expected to lead to some contributions to knowledge and understanding at national level and significant contributions at international level. However, because of its very small size, the feasibility of the group’s research is highly dependent on the success of this international collaboration.

Productivity (including evidence of international levels of attainment)
This embryonic group is very small. So productivity to date, in terms of publications, has been low.

Training
At present, little evidence has been presented to indicate that the group can provide a suitable research training environment.

Overall Perspective
This newly structured group is very small and its future success is very much dependent on just two researchers. The overall plans and objectives are ambitious, although specific scientific objectives need elaboration. However, if collaboration with EU partners is successful the research will lead to outcome of international relevance and importance.
Modelling and Simulation of Multi-phase processes [RG-EASP-Norte-Porto-668-1868]
Introduction
This is a moderate-sized, group of staff, built around research within the discontinued “Modelling and simulation of unit operations in mineral processing” group.

Focus, Relevance and Feasibility of the Research Aims
The group’s specific research focus is on the shallow-layer settler, involving measurement of the thickness of the water-kerosene dispersion band. This is a topical research area in Applied Minerals Science which should lead to significant contributions to knowledge and understanding at national level and some contributions at international level in relation to the industrial design of equipment and detection and neutralization of the harmful effects of resulting crud.

Productivity (including evidence of international levels of attainment)
Some previous publications in the proposed key research area are in peer-reviewed international journals (Chem. Eng J., Ind. and Chem. Res., Hydrometallurgy). This suggests a moderate level of productivity for future publications.

Training
Some 4 PhD and 2 MSc previously completed theses in the research area suggests a good, future research training environment.

Overall Perspective
This newly structured group is based on a previous group whose overall achievements and potential have met expectations with some indication of the impact and relevance of this work at international level. Future plans and objectives are highly focussed and realistic. The proposed work is likely to lead to some outcomes of international relevance and importance.

Modelling and simulation of unit operations in mineral processing [RG-X-EASP-Norte-Porto-668-1869]
Introduction
This is a small group. It is noted that from 2007 research within the group will be continued within the newly formed Modelling and Simulation of Multi-Phase Processes group.

Focus, Relevance and Feasibility of the Research Aims
The group’s specific research focus has been on the physical and chemical modelling of multi-phase processes in ore beneficiation with particular reference to liquid-liquid extraction, jigging and Haulage. These are established research areas in Applied Minerals Science which have led to significant contributions to knowledge and understanding at national level and some contributions at international level.

Productivity (including evidence of international levels of attainment)
For its size, the group has achieved a moderate level of productivity in terms of publications. A reasonable number of these are in notable peer-reviewed international journals (Chem. Eng J., Ind. and Chem. Res., Hydrometallurgy).

Training
4 PhD and 2 MSc projects completed in the review period is evidence the group provides a very good research training environment.

Overall Perspective
The group’s overall achievements have met expectations with some impact and relevance of this work at international level, notably in the area of liquid-liquid extraction.
Phenomenology involved in Geo-Environmental Technologies [RG-X-EASP-Norte-Porto-668-1864]
Introduction
This was a small group of researchers that ceased to exist after 2006, evolving, along with 668-1861 (Dispersion and Multi-phase equilibrium of Contaminants in the Environment) into new groups (principally 668-1867, Risk Analysis and Management) in the CIGAR Unit from 2007.

Focus, Relevance and Feasibility of the Research Aims
The general research focus of this engineering-based group was largely concerned with remediation, including bioremediation, of contaminated soils and groundwater. One specific area of research interest was in the development of respirometric methods for the study of biodegradation. The work of the group led to significant contributions to knowledge and understanding at national level, including planned industrial contract research, and minor contributions at international level. A greater focus of research in the area of remediation with relevance at international level, however, was recognised by the decision to disband the group and form a new, larger group on Risk Analysis and Management (668-1867).

Productivity (including evidence of international levels of attainment)
Although small, the group achieved only a moderate level of productivity in terms of publications in the 2003-2006 period. A few of these, however, were in peer-reviewed international journals, including Environment International and the Journal of Hazardous Materials for the 2003-2006 period.

Training
The group provided a good research training environment, with output of 2 PhD and 2 MSc theses completed in the 2003-2006 period.

Overall Perspective
The overall achievements of this group during the 2003-2006 period just about met expectations with some indication of the impact and relevance of this work at international level. With respect to the future, however, its disbandment and the formation of a larger new group were realistic.
Physical characterisation of the subsoil, essentially by geo-physical methods [RG-X-EASP-Norte-Porto-668-1858]
Introduction
This was a small group of staff. It is noted that the group, from 2007, has developed into the ‘Geo-environmental Technologies, Characterization and Operations in the Subsoil’ group.

Focus, Relevance and Feasibility of the Research Aims
The specific research focus has been on using primarily geophysical methods to characterize the shallow subsurface. These are topical research areas in the application of Earth Science which have led to a significant contribution to knowledge and understanding at national level and some contributions at international level. Some work has also been carried out on the topical issue of CO2 Sequestration.

Productivity (including evidence of international levels of attainment)
For its size, the group has achieved a good level of productivity in terms of publications, especially in conference and technical reports. A few of these are in peer-reviewed international journals.
Research on the Porto to Lisbon railway tunnels and subway construction in both Porto and Lisbon provides evidence of the applicability of their work to both national and local society.

Training
1 PhD and 1 MSc projects completed in the review period is evidence the group provided a reasonable research training environment.

Overall Perspective
The group's overall achievements have met expectations with some indications of the impact and relevance of this work at international level.
Risk Analysis and Management [RG-EASP-Norte-Porto-668-1867]
Introduction
This is a medium-sized group of researchers that has evolved, since 2007, from two previous groups, 668-1861 (Dispersion and Multi-phase Equilibrium of Contaminants in the Environment) and 668-1864 (Phenomenology involved in Geo-Environmental Technologies), no longer in existence.

Focus, Relevance and Feasibility of the Research Aims
The general research focus of this engineering-based group is on remediation of the contaminated environment, with particular emphasis upon technological improvements to existing chemical and biological approaches to remediation of specific inorganic- or organic-contaminated situations and locations rather than fundamental scientific innovation. Specific technological topics include optimisation of permeable reactive barriers, oxygen-consuming coatings, iron-based sorbents and bioremediation, and their application to environmental problems such as chromium and trichloroethylene contamination of aquifers, rock acid drainage, arsenic contamination of groundwater, and pesticide-contaminated waters. The work of the group has led to major contributions to knowledge and understanding at national level and some contributions at international level. Good modern laboratory facilities and analytical equipment require supplementation with atomic absorption spectrometry. An increase in predominantly research-focussed personnel in the future would also be beneficial.

Productivity (including evidence of international levels of attainment)
Like that of the two groups which preceded it, the main output of this new group so far has been in the form of official scientific and technical reports and presentations/publications at national and international conferences, e.g. CONSOIL. Very little has thus far been published in peer-reviewed international journals.

Training
The new group continues to provide a good research training environment, with a further PhD thesis and several Advanced Masters theses since 2007.

Overall Perspective
This newly structured group is based on two previous groups whose overall achievements and potential just about met expectations with some indications of the impact and relevance of this work at international level. Future plans and objectives of this new group are well developed, although requiring a little more focus in specific project selection. The proposed work is likely to lead to outcomes of international relevance and importance.