Valorisation of Nutrients in Wastewaters Using Reactive Inorganic Sorbents

  • M. Hermassi
  • D. Guaya
  • O. Gibert
  • C. Valderrama
  • J. L. CortinaEmail author


The recovery and removal of nutrients from the main anthropogenic flows (e.g. urban/industrial wastewater and animal manure) could be crucial to maintain the ecosystems and to secure a renewable source of nutrients. Technology options for recovering phosphorus (P) from wastewater have often been limited by the need to treat large volume of diluted waste streams. The solid-liquid technology, which uses an adsorbent in conventional sorption-regeneration processes, is one of the most realistic solutions for P recovery from wastewater. In particular, the approaches based on a low-cost inorganic adsorbent have attracted increasing attention for recovering P from wastewater treatment plants. This chapter describes the use of coal combustion fly ash and its derivative zeolites as low-cost inorganic adsorbents for P recovery from wastewater. Laboratory experiments showed that the presence of aluminium and iron oxides as well as calcium (Ca)-based minerals was critical to promote the complexation with phosphate (Pi) on the solid structure, thereby forming brushite (CaHPO4·2H2O) deposits. Bioavailability assays have demonstrated that the Pi-loaded inorganic sorbents could serve as a slow-release Pi fertiliser in both basic and acidic soils. Furthermore, the use of synthetic zeolite mixtures has demonstrated their ability to simultaneously remove Pi and ammonium from wastewater. The recovered products could be used not only as mineral fertiliser but also as soil amendment, since the zeolite-based particles have a structure capable of improving the water retention capacity of soil. The potential implementation of the zeolite-based sorbents as Pi recovery technology has also been evaluated using a hybrid process consisting of Pi sorption and membrane ultrafiltration.


Zeolite Inorganic sorbents Slow-release Pi fertiliser Valorisation Wastewater 



This research was supported by the Waste2Product project (CTM2014-57302-R) financed by the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (MINECO) and the Catalan government (Project Ref. 2014SGR50), Spain.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Hermassi
    • 1
    • 2
  • D. Guaya
    • 1
    • 3
  • O. Gibert
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • C. Valderrama
    • 1
    • 2
  • J. L. Cortina
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Chemical Engineering DepartmentUPC-Barcelona TECHBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Barcelona Research Center for Multiscale Science and EngineeringBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Departament of ChemistryUniversidad Técnica Particular de LojaLojaEcuador
  4. 4.Water Technology Center CETaquaCornellà de LlobregatSpain

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