- German researchers announced that they have successfully developed a chemical-free process to recover phosphorus salts from wastewater
- Phosphorus salts are a valuable component of most commercial fertilizers. In recent years, however, shortages of phosphorus has caused the price of fertilizer to rise dramatically.
- The new process, which is being piloted now, will allow sewage treatment plants to quickly capture the phosphorus from wastewater. From their, the phosphorus can be directly applied as fertilizer.
- Researchers are hoping to commercialize the process early in 2013.
From the article:
Sewage sludge, wastewater and liquid manure are valuable sources of fertilizer for food production. Fraunhofer researchers have now developed a chemical-free, eco-friendly process that enables the recovered salts to be converted directly into organic food for crop plants.
Phosphorus is a vital element not only for plants but also for all living organisms. In recent times, however, farmers have been faced with a growing shortage of this essential mineral, and the price of phosphate-based fertilizers has been steadily increasing. It is therefore high time to start looking for alternatives. This is not an easy task, because phosphorus cannot be replaced by any other substance. But researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Stuttgart have found a solution that makes use of locally available resources which, as unlikely as it might seem, are to be found in plentiful supply in the wastewater from sewage treatment plants and in the fermentation residues from biogas plants: a perfect example of the old saying "from muck to riches." The new process was developed by a team of scientists led by Jennifer Bilbao, who manages the nutrient management research group at the IGB. "Our process precipitates out the nutrients in a form that enables them to be directly applied as fertilizer," she explains.