Geochemical Engineering Group

Geochemical Engineering is a rather new discipline in environmental management evolving from geochemistry, a fundamental science concerned with the chemistry of the earth, in the late 1980’s.  Emeritus Prof. Dr R.D. Schuiling, Utrecht University, Netherlands is considered the Grandfather of “Geochemical Engineering”, and a special issue in the journal Applied Geochemisrty.  

Geochemical Engineers recognise that industry produces many harmful substances that will eventually enter the environment becoming part of the geochemical cycle.  However, in nature many substances are found that have the same toxic properties as anthropogenic pollutants, and yet these often pose no serious threat to human health and life in general. Typically, this because the substances occur sufficiently low concentrations or, if they are highly concentrated, are immobilised geochemically and, therefore, not biologically available. Hence, although geochemical engineers use the same instruments as chemical engineers and also perform laboratory tests and experiments, it is mainly nature that inspires them, when conceiving innovative environmental technologies. Consequently, because of its’ evolution from geochemistry geochemical engineers study the properties of minerals, soils, rocks, waters and natural chemical processes, in order to find cost-effective solutions for environmental problems.

In particular, Geochemical Engineering has a strong focus on industrial waste materials where, if we cannot prevent anthropogenic pollution, remediation measures have to be taken to restore natural conditions.  As such, a strong focus on industrial wastes by Geochemical Engineers progresses the ideas of sustainability, and particularly the ideal of zero waste industries.  Consequently, these geochemical engineering measures focus on ways to reduce wastes and pollutant concentrations in the bio-available and mobile phase, which fall under seven categories: Breakdown, or Decay; Concentration; Dilution; Isolation; Immobilization; Transformation; and or Repurposing.  Many, Geochemical Engineering solutions often involve more than one of these processes in combination.

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