Simultaneous phosphorous and nitrogen recovery from source-separated urine: A novel application for fertiliser drawn forward osmosis

Federico Volpin, Laura Chekli, Sherub Phuntsho, Jaeweon Cho, NorEddine Ghaffour, Johannes S. Vrouwenvelder, H.K. Shon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Re-thinking our approach to dealing with wastes is one of the major challenges in achieving a more sustainable society. However, it could also generate numerous opportunities. Specifically, in the context of wastewater, nutrients, energy and water could be mined from it. Because of its exceptionally high nitrogen (N) and phosphorous (P) concentration, human urine is particularly suitable to be processed for fertiliser production. In the present study, forward osmosis (FO) was employed to mine the P and N from human urine. Two Mg2+-fertilisers, i.e. MgSO4 and Mg(NO3)2 were selected as draw solution (DS) to dewater synthetic non-hydrolysed urine. In this process, the Mg2+ reverse salt flux (RSF) were used to recover P as struvite. Simultaneously, the urea was recovered in the DS as it is poorly rejected by the FO membrane. The results showed that, after 60% urine concentration, about 40% of the P and 50% of the N were recovered. XRD and SEM – EDX analysis confirmed that P was precipitated as mineral struvite. If successfully tested on real urine, this process could be applied to treat the urine collected in urban areas e.g., high-rise building. After the filtration, the solid struvite could be sold for inland applications whereas the diluted fertiliser used for direct fertigation of green walls, parks or for urban farming. Finally, reduction in the load of N, P to the downstream wastewater treatment plant would also ensure a more sustainable urban water cycle.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)482-489
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Mar 30 2018

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: This research was supported by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia, CPF program, by the Australian Research Council (ARC) through the ARC Research Hub for Energy-efficient Separation (IH170100009) and by the Korean Government (MSIP) (No. NRF-2015R1A5A7037825 and No. NRF-2016R1A2B4012214).


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