Mining nutrients (N, K, P) from urban source-separated urine by forward osmosis dewatering

Jiefeng Zhang, Qianhong She, Victor W.C. Chang, Chuyang Y. Tang, Richard D. Webster

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155 Citations (Scopus)


Separating urine from domestic wastewater promotes a more sustainable municipal wastewater treatment system. This study investigated the feasibility of applying a forward osmosis (FO) dewatering process for nutrient recovery from source-separated urine under different conditions, using seawater or desalination brine as a low-cost draw solution. The filtration process with the active layer facing feed solution exhibited relatively high water fluxes up to 20 L/m2 -h. The process also revealed relatively low rejection to neutral organic nitrogen (urea-N) in fresh urine but improved rejection of ammonium (50−80%) in hydrolyzed urine and high rejection (>90%) of phosphate, potassium in most cases. Compared to simulation based on the solution−diffusion mechanism, higher water flux and solute flux were obtained using fresh or hydrolyzed urine as the feed, which was attributed to the intensive forward nutrient permeation (i.e., of urea, ammonium, and potassium). Membrane fouling could be avoided by prior removal of the spontaneously precipitated crystals in urine. Compared to other urine treatment options, the current process was cost-effective and environmentally friendly for nutrient recovery from urban wastewater at source, yet a comprehensive life-cycle impact assessment might be needed to evaluate and optimize the overall system performance at pilot and full scale operation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3386-3394
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

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