The CHROMIC’s results will be presented at EUROCLAY 2019 ( by VITO’s researcher Elena M. Seftel. EUROCLAY is one of the most important scientific meetings in the field of clays and clay minerals, an event taking place every four years, in which the latest cutting-edge results of this research area are presented. The forthcoming edition of the event will be held at Pierre & Marie Curie University (UPMC) in the center of Paris, France, from 1st to 5th July.

Two contributions will show the research conducted by VITO within CHROMIC. The first one is a poster titled “Sorption of metal oxyanions from complex solutions by layered double hydroxide (LDHs) type anionic clays” will be part of the session “Layered double hydroxides for Future Earth”, whereas the second, an oral presentation called “Clay-based structured composites for oxyanions uptake from aqueous waste effluents” (realized in collaboration with the Laboratory of Adsorption and Catalysis of the University of Antwerpen), will be presented during the session “Clay and clay minerals in ceramics: from industrial to new hierarchical/textural materials”.

On Wednesday 26 June dr. Niall O’Toole from HZDR will give a talk about research carried out within CHROMIC at the European Metallurgical Conference (EMC), in Düsseldorf, Germany.

The topic of the presentation will be the development of a solvent extraction process for recovery of chromium and vanadium from steel slags, which is one of the main scientific and technological tasks tackled in CHROMIC.

The EMC is one of the most important international conference and meeting for metallurgists and engineers from the non-ferrous industry and research institutes in Europe. Besides its relevance, the event is particularly focused on the theme of sustainability, a founding theme of the CHROMIC project’s philosophy.

Further information about the European Metallurgical Conference 2019 at the conference website

VITO’s researcher Frantisek Kukurugya will present a paper at the Physical Separation ‘19 Conference, which will take place in Falmouth, UK, from 13th to 14th June. 

The conference, organized by Minerals Engineering International (MEI)(, will bring together researchers and operators in the field of physical separation methods, which are of vital importance in the mining sector. On the second day of the event Kukurugya will present the paper titled “Up-concentration of Cr in stainless steel slag and ferrochromium slags by magnetic and gravity separation” (F. Kukurugya, P. Nielsen and L. Horckmans), which shows results obtained by VITO within Work Package 2 of the CHROMIC project.  

Further information about Physical Separation ‘19 at the conference website (


CHROMIC is going to participate in the Raw Materials Summit 2019, which will take place on 20-22 May in Berlin, Germany.

The Raw Materials Summit is the flagship event organized by the EIT (European Institute of Innovation and Technology) RawMaterials (link, the largest consortium in the raw materials sector worldwide.

The summit will bring together experts from all around the world to discuss innovation and new technologies encompassing the entire raw materials value chain. Also, topics such as strategies concerning supply and access of raw materials, European industrial competitiveness and innovation capacity will be covered in-depth, providing a wide understanding of the EU positioning concerning the energy transition and the impact this will have on raw materials supply and policies.

CHROMIC couldn’t miss the event and will contribute by bringing the broad scientific and technological expertise it has gained in the field. Liesbeth Horkmans – the CHROMIC project coordinator – was invited to give a talk about CHROMIC in the “H2020 – research along the raw materials value chain” session of the summit.

Further information about the event here (


Remember the old arcade games from the 80s? No fancy hyper-realistic graphics, no third dimension. Nonetheless, in just a few pixels, you could live the most amazing adventures: Rescue abducted princesses, save Earth from alien invasions, flying spaceships through asteroids and… eat a lot of fruit while staying away from indigestible ghosts.

Yes, that was Pacman’s thing. The yellow pal was on a mission to seek and collect all the pieces of fruit that were disseminated within a labyrinth, avoiding contact with the ghosts.

What does that have to do with solvent extraction? Regrettably, there are no arcades at CHROMIC facilities, yet Pacman’s lifestyle comes in handy to describe the object of this Getting to Know, as we’ll see in a moment.

After the “tea preparing” stage (i.e. leaching stage) of the metal recovery process, we were left with our valuable metals (Cr, Mo, V, Nb) dissolved in a complex solution containing solvents and some impurities: The final step of the recovery process is then that of separating the metals from the solution, and possibly enrich them. That can be achieved very efficiently by cunningly combining different chemical techniques, one of which is solvent extraction.


CHROMIC Podcast – Episode 6 is about solvent extraction. Click here to listen to the podcast


This method is used to separate compounds based on their solubility in two different immiscible liquids, which in most cases are an aqueous solution containing the target element(s) and an organic compound. To do that, the two liquids (or “phases”) are mixed, so that the solutes can distribute between them until equilibrium is established, and the two liquids are separated again. The transfer of species from one phase to the other is driven by the chemical potential, which by the end of the reaction brings the whole system to a more stable energetic configuration. The liquid containing the desired solute is called the “extract” and what is left behind in the other solution is called the “raffinate”.

Going back to the analogy we started from, we can conveniently link the elements at play with the characters and dynamics of the beloved arcade game. The organic compound is represented by Pacman itself, the fruits are the valuable metals, and the ghosts are the impurities which Pacman does not want to get into contact. The solutions are immiscible, but they can be mixed through stirring, so Pacman comes into contact with the fruits, transferring them into the organic phase. When Pacman has explored the whole labyrinth, the mixing stops and the two solutions separate, leaving the ghosts and impurities in the aqueous leachate, whereas Pacman and the fruits are located in the organic phase. In a second step another solution can be added, which encourages Pacman to release the fruits into the aqueous phase, so to finally get a pure solution of our valuable metals.

Aside from this simplified image, the process is indeed in principle pretty straightforward, but in practice very challenging. First off, in case of the reactive extraction of metal ions selecting the right extractants, modifiers and solventsfor the task is far from being trivial. A number of features have to be taken into account: The ability of the extractant to bind to the target metal to a much larger extent than the rest of the components in the mixture; the irreversibility of the reaction must be guaranteed, in order for the dissolved components not to go back to their previous form; the compound formed after the reaction has taken place must be easily recoverable. Other factors that affect selection for the composition of the organic phase are its solubility in the aqueous phase and its long term stability; for industrial applications other factors like low toxicity are important, too. . Furthermore, the conditions under which the extractive reaction takes place greatly impact on the final result, and need to be fine-tuned. For instance, it is very important to maintain  a stablepH and a constant temperature of the compound during the extraction process, as well as to find the right residence time (the time in which the two solutions are in contact) and the suitable phase ratio so that the reaction is optimized.

Solvent extraction is widely used both on small – chemical laboratories – and industrial scale, due to its cost-effectiveness and capacity of separating the required components without altering their properties. It is for instance applied in the production of fine organic compounds, the production of vegetable oils and biodiesel, the processing of perfumes. It is also employed in the petrochemical refining industries, where extraction allowsthe procurement of pure petroleum from the impurity-filled crude oil. From a hydrometallurgical standpoint, the ability to selectively separate out even very similar metals makes solvent extraction the way to go for separation and purification of elements like uranium and plutonium, cobalt and nickel, as well as rare earth elements.

Depending on the application, different devices and apparatus can be used to perform solvent extraction. Those commonly include so called separatory funnels (at lab scale), and machines that bring the two liquids into contact with each other, like extraction columns  and mixer-settlers.

In CHROMIC the research on solvent extraction to recover Cr, V, Mo and Nb is brought forward by HZDR, while other methods which are to be combined with solvent extraction, like selective precipitation and sorbent materials are investigated respectively by BFI and FehS, and VITO. Lastly, TUK focuses on the final processing.

No arcade game characters are being harmed during the process.

(Photo: bdyczewskiPixabay )

The CHROMIC project crosses the ocean to land at PDAC 2019 ( in Toronto, Canada, from 3rd to 6th March.

The annual PDAC Convention is one of the top international events for the minerals and mining industry, attended by thousands of representatives of industries, research institutes, stakeholders and investors from all around the world.

CHROMIC – along with other Horizon 2020 Raw Materials projects – will be promoted within a dedicated EU booth. A short version of the CHROMIC project video ( will be presented.

CHROMIC’s selective metal recovery processes will be presented at the Annual Meeting of the ProcessNet Expert Groups Extraction and Phytoextracts (, which will take place in Muttenz, Switzerland, on 7th-8th February.


Organized and hosted by the University of Life Sciences, the conference focuses on new developments and applications of solvent extraction, phytoextraction, phase separation, fluid dynamics, modelling and scale-up.


On the first day of the event, Dr. Niall O’Toole, from Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf – a partner of the CHROMIC project – will present a poster titled “Separation of transition metal complex anions from alkaline leachate solutions by solvent extraction”.

In the Horizon 2020 calls for projects, consortia are explicitly asked to integrate a clear strategy on how to involve civil society, in order to build trust in the recovery, recycling and mining sectors in Europe. To meet these important requests, within CHROMIC a Community Involvement Plan (CIP from now on) was formulated. Aim of the plan is to share and discuss the technological, economic, societal and health-related aspects with stakeholders and local communities along the different phases of the project.

Some months ago, for the third podcast of our series, we interviewed the community involvement coordinator Federica Manzoli, who gave us an introduction to the CIP and told us about the – back then just concluded – first phase of it. Now, the work for the second phase has been carried on and we went back to Manzoli to ask her for an account of what was done and what came out of it. The following is a synthesis of what she told us.

The main difference between the two phases of the CIP is that the first was aimed at engaging with  laypeople (you can listen to more about it here (link podcast 3)), whereas the second was focused on involving the widest possible variety of stakeholders. Both were conducted in important industrial areas in four out of the five countries of the CHROMIC project partners. Like for the first phase, the second one’s events were held in Brescia (Italy), Leverkusen (Germany), and Lille (France), but this time Brussels was chosen instead of Genk in Belgium so that  representatives of the EU institutions could join. The four workshops took place between July and October and saw the participation of nearly fifty stakeholders.

The workshops were organized with the aim of raising the stakeholders’ interest in the CHROMIC project development and to consider the different points of view on the possible opportunities and problems that can emerge at the current and future stages of the project’s technological development. The meetings were tailored to focus on the assessment of the impacts of the project related to: Human health (e.g. noise production, hazardous substances causing respiratory effects); ecosystem quality (e.g. impact on water, soil, air); resources (e.g. land and water use, avoidance of further primary mining and production); climate change (e.g. greenhouse gases emission); economics. Within these “impact groups” a major goal was to understand what kind of scenarios CHROMIC can contribute to realize regarding, for example, the potential creation of local jobs, investments and profits.

The participants were chosen among stakeholders who locally count in decision making pertaining to the above mentioned fields: from local and regional health environmental agencies, to representatives of industries and industries associations, environmental associations and, in Brussels, representatives of the EU institutions. The wide and varied participation to the workshops – which in itself is a very positive result – produced fruitful discussions and valuable feedback.

Analysis of the outcomes of this round of events was finished a few weeks ago. Among the many points that have been brought to attention during the meetings, the impacts of CHROMIC and projects alike on land recovery and smart management of resources – especially to decrease dependence on primary raw material, reduction of pollution from detoxification of slags, and transportation logistics emerged as central issues to take into account for the development of the project.

Beyond that, a point to stress is that new technologies are regarded as successful only if they bring an economic advantage. All participants agreed that CHROMIC has the potential to bring so many benefits to a large number of areas, that if it is economically viable, it will be surely accepted and implemented by industries and also very welcomed by all other stakeholders.

“Events like the ones organized within the activities of societal involvement may help the diffusion of awareness among citizens” says Manzoli, “and regarding those participating in the workshops, we hope they will act as multipliers and help in disseminating better knowledge about the issues discussed”. On the other hand, the significance of setting up a dialogue with different categories of stakeholders for projects like CHROMIC was well explained in the Brussels’ workshop. In fact, one of the goals of this kind of event is to consider the cultural differences in the acceptance of new technologies and also the importance to spread quality information about the progress of the EU funded research. Technical issues, social issues, innovation issues, they require different experts, and this was the occasion to get them together.

What we learnt in the second phase of the CIP will be brought to the third and final phase, which will take place at the end of the project, in 2020. For that occasion, participatory events are planned, where local communities will be invited to discuss with researchers and other parties involved in the project, to discover the results and the scenarios opened by the CHROMIC technologies.

On 4 th October 2018, CHROMIC co-organized the first edition of the H2020 Innovation Forum in Athens, Greece. The H2020 Innovation Forum is an on- going clustering initiative, bringing together H2020 projects with policy makers, end-users, industry
representatives, investors, start-ups and SMEs.


Liesbeth Horckmans, CHROMIC coordinator, at the H2020 Innovation Forum, Athens


The kick-off event centered around the topics Zero Waste and Life Cycle Assessment, which were very well received and opened the floor for lively and fruitful discussions between stakeholders from research and business. In addition, ITRB presented an Interactive Clustering Tool as a way to find meaningful links between the projects.

The second edition of the Innovation Forum 2019 will be held in Brussels, and aims to expand the amount of projects included, increase the  number of relevant stakeholders in attendance and expand on the topics presented.


Think of a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine, the most powerful particle accelerator ever built and the fastest train on the globe. They all are very remarkable pieces of technology and human ingenuity, but apart from that, what do they have in common? The answer is niobium. This element is a superconductor, a material in which – below a certain critical temperature –   electricity flows with zero resistance, while the magnetic field is expelled out in a peculiar way. That is why the strong magnetic fields required by MRI devices, as well as the ones used to steer particles at the Large Hadron Collider and those which allow to keep a levitating train (the SCMAGLEV in Japan) locked to its binary at 600 kmph, are provided by superconductive magnets made of niobium alloys.

Shouldn’t that be enough to make it interesting, there are much more properties and applications to talk about in getting to know niobium.

This project received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program under Grant Agreement n° 730471

effiCient mineral processing and Hydrometallurgical RecOvery of by-product Metals from low-grade metal contaIning seCondary raw materials