Recovering Phosphorus from Wastewater

Julia Weber
March 28th 2014

Phosphorus is an essential element for all living creatures: plants, animals and humans. It is necessary for the body biological processes and for the building of DNA blocks. In agriculture it has been used as a fertilizer and it can be found in detergents and drinks, as well. Because of the extensive use of Phosphorus by farmers and industries it accumulates in rivers, polluting water and soil.

The Fraunhofer Project Group for Materials Recycling and Resource Strategies (IWKS) found a way to remove Phosphorus from water, saving and reusing the valuable material at the same time.

Dr. Carsten Gellermann, Head of IWKS, said: “We add superparamagnetic particles to the water. Slags, sludges, landfill.”

Via Fraunhofer: This means that if these particles detect a magnetic field they themselves become magnetic. However, if the magnet is removed the particles lose their magnetic property and float freely in the water without adhering to each other. Researchers have attached bonding sites for phosphorus to these particles so that they fish the phosphate anions out of the water and carry them “piggyback”. Using a magnet the particles, along with their phosphorus load, can then be removed from the water, leaving the water clear of phosphorus. “This way other hazardous substances, such as toxic heavy metals, can also be removed relatively easily with magnets” explains Gellermann.

Read more on Fraunhofer

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