Recovery of Nitrogen and Phosphorus Nutrition from Anaerobic Digestate by Natural Superabsorbent Fiber-Based Adsorbent and Reusing as an Environmentally Friendly Slow-Release Fertilizer for Horticultural Plants

  • Le Zhang
  • Kai-Chee LohEmail author
  • Suseeven Sarvanantharajah
  • Ye Shen
  • Yen Wah Tong
  • Chi-Hwa Wang
  • Yanjun Dai
Original Paper



To help minimize the negative impact of chemical fertilizers on the environment, recycle nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients of anaerobic digestate and reduce loss of nutrients via leaching, an eco-friendly slow-release fertilizer was prepared through recovery of nitrogen and phosphorus nutrition from digestate using superabsorbent fibers extracted from soybean curd residue as an adsorbent.


The preparation method was proposed, and the fiber composite-based adsorbent was characterized by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR), X-ray diffraction (XRD), and scanning electron microscope (SEM) techniques.


The successful incorporation of N and P into the fiber composite-based adsorbent via adsorption was confirmed by results of these analyses. The prepared fertilizer showed a relatively high N content (3.65 wt%) and a limited P content (0.14 wt%). Also, the swelling capacity as well as water retention capability of the obtained fiber composite-based adsorbent were evaluated. The release behavior of N and P from impregnated fiber composites was examined and was found to be partially in good accordance with the standard of the Committee of European Normalization, showing good slow-release and water-retention properties. Furthermore, in order to assess the fertilizer quality of the prepared materials, the effects of different fertilizers (commercially available fertilizer and prepared slow-release fertilizer) on tomato plant growth and soil microbial communities were investigated.


The obtained results demonstrated the potential of fiber composite-based slow-release fertilizer system for recycling N and P nutrition from digestate, improving the effectiveness of fertilizer as well as protecting the environment.

Graphic Abstract


Resource recovery Bio-fertilizer Water absorbency Impregnation Soil microbial communities Pyrosequencing 



This research project was funded by the National Research Foundation, Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore under its Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE) Programme.

Supplementary material

12649_2019_915_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (289 kb)
Electronic supplementary material 1 (PDF 289 kb)


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NUS Environmental Research InstituteNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.Department of Chemical and Biomolecular EngineeringNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  3. 3.Department of Biochemical EngineeringUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  4. 4.School of Mechanical EngineeringShanghai Jiao Tong UniversityShanghaiChina

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