F. Volpin, L. Chekli, S. Phuntsho, J. Cho, N. Ghaffour, J.S. Vrouwenvelder, H.K. Shon
Chemosphere, volume 203, pp. 482-489, (2018)
Forward osmosis, Urine treatment, Phosphorous recovery, Nitrogen recovery, Fertiliser draw solution
Re-thinking our approach to dealing with waste 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 concentrating the urine by 60%, 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.