MSU prof helps devise method of removing phosphorous from wastewater

Aug 15, 2012
Steve Safferman (r), associate professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering, and student Hayley Betker are working to develop a new method of removing phosphorous from wastewater. Phosphorous runoff into lakes and streams can seriously affect the health of the water. Photo: Kurt Stepnitz.

(Phys.org) -- A professor at Michigan State University is part of a team developing a new method of removing phosphorous from our wastewater – a problem seriously affecting lakes and streams across the country.

In addition, Steven Safferman, an associate professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering, and colleagues at Columbus, Ohio, based-MetaMateria Technologies, are devising a cost-effective way of recovering the phosphorous, which then can be reused for fertilizer products.

Although its use is regulated in many states, including Michigan, in items such as detergents and fertilizer, phosphorous is part of all food and remains a critical problem as it is always present in human and animal wastes.

Discharge from human and industrial wastewater and runoff into lakes and streams can cause what is known as eutrophication – making the water unsuitable for recreational purposes and reducing fish populations – as well as causing the growth of toxic algae.

What MetaMateria Technologies and Safferman have figured out and tested over the past 10 years is how to produce a media, enhanced with nanoparticles composed of iron, that can more efficiently remove larger amounts of phosphorous from water.

“Phosphorous that is dissolved in , like sugar in water, is hard to remove,” Safferman said. “We found that a nano-media made with waste iron can efficiently absorb it, making it a solid that can be easily and efficiently removed and recovered for beneficial reuse.”

Safferman added there are indications that their method of phosphorous retrieval is much more cost effective than processing phosphate rock.

“Research suggests that it is significantly cheaper to recover phosphorous this way. So why would you mine phosphorous?” he asked. “And, at the same time, you’re helping to solve a serious environmental problem.”

The material should be commercially available for use within two years, said J. Richard Schorr, MetaMateria CEO.

“Phosphorous is a finite material,” Schorr said “Analyses show that the supply of phosphorous may become limited within the next 25 to 50 years. This is an economical way to harvest and recycle .”

Explore further: Mexico investigates mass fish death in lagoon

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

World phosphorous use crosses critical threshold

Feb 14, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Recalculating the global use of phosphorous, a fertilizer linchpin of modern agriculture, a team of researchers warns that the world's stocks may soon be in short supply and that overuse in the industrialized ...

Plant nutrients from wastewater

Sep 07, 2010

Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium -- there are valuable nutrients contained in wastewater. Unfortunately, these essential nutrients are lost in conventional wastewater treatment plants. This is the reason why researchers ...

Closing the phosphorous-efficiency gap

Oct 24, 2011

Ways to reduce the costs of phosphorus fertiliser use on farms – critical for sustaining high agricultural production in many Australian farming systems – have been identified in a new suite of journal ...

Sugarcane okay in standing water, helps protect Everglades

Mar 24, 2010

A study by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists shows that sugarcane can tolerate flooded conditions for up to two weeks. That's good news for growers who are using best management practices for controlling phosphorous ...

Scientists cage chemical demon

Jun 25, 2009

A Cambridge University-led research team has discovered a technique to safely handle and transport white phosphorous.

Recommended for you

Halliburton pays $1.1 bn for Gulf of Mexico BP spill

7 hours ago

Oil services company Halliburton said Tuesday it would pay a $1.1 billion settlement over its role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil rig blowout that led to the United States' most disastrous oil spill.

Underwater grass comeback bodes well for Chesapeake Bay

7 hours ago

The Susquehanna Flats, a large bed of underwater grasses near the mouth of the Susquehanna River, virtually disappeared from the upper Chesapeake Bay after Tropical Storm Agnes more than 40 years ago. However, ...

Clean air halves health costs in Chinese city

10 hours ago

Air pollution regulations over the last decade in Taiyuan, China, have substantially improved the health of people living there, accounting for a greater than 50% reduction in costs associated with loss of life and disability ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

R2Bacca
not rated yet Aug 15, 2012
Neat process, but I wish they'd elaborated on the method of getting the phosphorus/iron nanoparticles out of the wastewater stream. I know of a couple of other methods being developed to remove phosphorus using iron, but the problem with them is removing the bound end product.
rubberman
5 / 5 (1) Aug 15, 2012
Perhaps immersion in water due to the soluability of the phosphorus, combined with a magnet to attract the iron....