Newly developed membrane contactor-based N and P recovery process: pilot-scale field experiments and cost analysis

Juho Uzkurt Kaljunen, Raed Al-Juboori, Anna Mikola, Ilaria Righetto, Irene Konola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
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In this study, a newly developed nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) recovery process using a membrane contactor termed NPHarvest was tested with different liquid waste streams in large-scale trials. Ammonia was captured in ammonium sulfate form using a hydrophobic membrane, while phosphorus was precipitated as sludge using alkali precipitation and coagulation processes. The tested streams were selected to cover the potential liquid waste streams for nitrogen recovery and included two different mesophilic digester reject waters, landfill leachate, and separately collected urine. The NPHarvest pilot was tested with hydraulic loads in the range of 12–133 L/h. Nitrogen recovery efficiency reached a maximum of 92.5% with the reject water of mesophilic digester and a maximum ammonia flux of 481.1 mg/L.h was obtained with a urine stream. A mass transfer coefficient was calculated for the four tested wastewater streams using two different approaches, resulting in two value ranges in the order of 10-3 and 10-7 m/s. It was found that the mass transfer coefficient decreased with increase in the initial nitrogen concentration. The recovery of phosphorus varied between 79% and 97%. The quality of ammonium sulfate was evaluated by employing comprehensive tests that included vegetative cells and coliphages, harmful metals, and organic micropollutant measurements. These measurements confirmed that ammonium sulfate meets the Finnish legislation requirements for agricultural use. The use of a diluted acid wash was proven to be sufficient for maintaining membrane surface properties and was confirmed by the observed insignificant loss of hydrophobicity and the mild development of fouling. Finally, the competitiveness of NPHarvest compared to existing processes was confirmed through a detailed cost analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Article number125288
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Early online date28 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • nitrogen
  • phosphorous
  • membrane contactor
  • NPHarvest
  • micropollutants
  • cost analysis


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