Capturing the Lost Phosphorus

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8 p.

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doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2011.02.001


Minable phosphorus (P) reserves are being depleted and will need to be replaced by recovering P that currently is lost from the agricultural system, causing water-quality problems. The largest two flows of lost P are in agricultural runoff and erosion (∼46% of mined P globally) and animal wastes (∼40%). These flows are quite distinct. Runoff has a very high volumetric flow rate, but a low P concentration; animal wastes have low flow rates, but a high P concentration together with a high concentration of organic material. Recovering the lost P in animal wastes is technically and economically more tractable, and it is the focus for this review of promising P-capture technologies. P capture requires that organic P be transformed into inorganic P (phosphate). For high-strength animal wastes, P release can be accomplished in tandem with anaerobic treatment that converts the energy value in the organic matter to CH4, H2, or electricity. Once present as phosphate, the P can be captured in a reusable form by four approaches. Most well developed is precipitation as magnesium or calcium solids. Less developed, but promising are adsorption to iron-based adsorbents, ion exchange to phosphate-selective solids, and uptake by photosynthetic microorganisms or P-selective proteins.


Chemosphere, Vol. 84, No. 6 (August 2011): 846-853. DOI.

Brooke Mayer was affiliated with the Arizona State University at the Tempe Campus at the time of publication.