Our project was not limited to the workbench! We passed through the laboratory doors to meet experts and to face the reality of the field. We had many fruitful conversations with an ecological engineer who advised us about the current situation and environmental pollution. A history doctoral student enlightened us about the importance of metals issues throughout the History of mankind! We got advise from an expert in process engineering and biotechnology, to construct and define our process and to understand the current industrial possibilities available to biotechnology. We asked the University of Pretoria iGEM team to investigated for us the social issues and conditions of platinum mining, by interviewing experts.
Finally we shared and did popularization on our project by attending to meetings, events and in medias (website, radio, local written press).
We presented the synthetic biology toolbox to the general public, and talked about how it could be applied to solve environmental problems such as in those in our project. More details can be found on the Engagement page. Those meeting allowed us to share our project with lots of people with little knowledge of biology... We presented synthetic biology to both children and their parents in different events. Popularizing our project was really interesting and new for us because we had to find new ways to explain synthetic biology and our project. Moreover our project was very well received by public and our conversations with people coming from different backgrounds was really motivating for us! We also shared our project with people more familiar with biology and biotechnology. Their questions and interrogations were really useful to us for building and developing our project and wiki.
We wondered if the different social issues around platinum were characteristic to our century and to what extent such issues could have mattered in the past. The history doctoral student we interviewed taught us a lot of things about many subjects related to metals. This made us realize that many of the problems we had highlighted related to platinum have existed throughout the history of mankind: pollution, ownership of resources, work conditions, availability...
We considered the implications for platinum and metals recycling our process could have, asked experts for advice and researched where it could fit in the industrial sector. This work can be found on the Integrated Practices page. The interactions we had here was really more focused in the scientific aspect of our project.
As we investigated on the wide range of available techniques able to perform our purpose (recover platinum) we wonder what would be the imperative in our process... While searching among uses of platinum in industry we found that nanoparticles was a very valuable form a platinum and increasingly used. So we focused our process in order to have nanoparticle as a final product.
The main question that we wondered was how to transpose our process initially designed on a laboratory scale to the industrial scale. This is a tough question, and theoretical knowledge is not enough to answer the question. That why we contacted a expert in process engineering and biotechnology to advise us to determine the feasibility of our project. Hence he was really interested in our project we could have had fruitful conversations... Thanks to him we have been able to assess and estimate representative values of our project applied on a industrial scale (such as, yields, cost, prices, concentration factors, amount of raw materials needed .....). Moreover his recommendations has shape our project as we focused on the platinum recovery from sewage sludge which is a very advantageous process financially speaking.
As we didn't really know what was the actual situation in environment and what solutions are being developed to face metal pollution, we asked for advice to an ecologist engineer. He showed us to what extend the situation could be critical about metals pollution, that why we found our project relevant. Thanks to him we have chosen to design a process able to be connected to other process occurring in the environment. Indeed we made us discover a wide range of already existing environmental processes that could be followed by our process.
Thanks to all those people we had very interesting interactions which contributed to the final shape of our project!