Advanced hybrid system for ammonium valorization as liquid fertilizer from treated urban wastewaters: validation of natural zeolites pretreatment and liquid-liquid membrane contactors at pilot plant scale
UNIVERSAL IDENTIFIER: http://hdl.handle.net/11093/4975
EDITED VERSION: https://www.mdpi.com/2077-0375/13/6/580
UNESCO SUBJECT: 3308.10 Tecnología de Aguas Residuales ; 3101 Agroquímica ; 3303 Ingeniería y Tecnología Químicas
DOCUMENT TYPE: article
This study evaluates a hybrid system combining zeolites as a sorption stage and a hollow fiber membrane contactor (HFMC) for ammonia (NH3) recovery from treated urban wastewater. Ion exchange with zeolites was selected as an advanced pretreatment and concentration step before the HFMC. The system was tested with wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluent (mainstream, 50 mg N-NH4/L) and anaerobic digestion centrates (sidestream, 600–800 mg N-NH4/L) from another WWTP. Natural zeolite, primarily clinoptilolite, demonstrated effective desorption of retained ammonium using a 2% NaOH solution in a closed-loop configuration, resulting in an ammonia-rich brine that enabled over 95% NH3 recovery using polypropylene HFMCs. A 1 m3/h demonstration plant processed both urban wastewaters, which were pretreated by ultrafiltration, removing over 90% of suspended solids and 60–65% of COD. The 2% NaOH regeneration brines (2.4–5.6 g N-NH4/L) were treated in a closed-loop HFMC pilot system, producing 10–15% N streams with potential use as liquid fertilizers. The resulting ammonium nitrate was free of heavy metals and organic micropollutants, making it suitable for use as liquid fertilizer. This comprehensive N management solution for urban wastewater applications can contribute to local economies while achieving reduced N discharge and circularity goals.
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