Reactive electrically conducting membranes for phosphorus recovery from livestock wastewater effluents

Kartikeya M. Kekre, Arezou Anvari, Katelyn Kahn, Ying Yao, Avner Ronen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


We present a novel ‘proof-of-concept’ electrochemically based membrane filtration process for the recovery of nitrogen and phosphorus from livestock wastewater following an anaerobic digestion step. Reactive electrically conducting membranes are shown to precipitate and separate struvite, an eco-friendly fertilizer from synthetic livestock wastewater, resulting in the production of a solid fertilizer and a high-quality water stream, fit for irrigation. The recovery process is based on electrochemical hydrolysis and control of local pH in proximity to the surface of the membrane, and therefore, does not require chemical additives for pH adjustment. The system was assessed at varying concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus corresponding to diluted and concentrated livestock wastewater (up to 1000 mg/L of N and P). Experimental results show up to 65% removal of phosphorus and nitrogen in the first 30 min of electrochemical filtration, and the precipitates were analytically confirmed to be struvite. In addition, the recovery process was shown efficient as it resulted in limited membrane fouling and flux reduction. Fouling and precipitation results were explained by a mathematical model describing the concentration of N, P, Mg ions in the presence of an external electric field. Accordingly, precipitation takes place in proximity to the membrane's surface but not directly on it, thus, limiting surface fouling. The electrochemical filtration system does not require chemical additives for pH adjustment, and the cost associated with electrochemical membrane-based struvite recovery was calculated to be $158 per ton of dry struvite, which is about 1.4 times lower in comparison to conventional recovery approaches. Overall, the electrochemical filtration system may be a promising alternative for nutrient recovery from livestock wastewater in terms of operational costs, recovery efficiency, and fouling mitigation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111432
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
StatePublished - 15 Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Electrochemical treatment
  • Membrane-based treatment
  • Nutrient recovery
  • Struvite precipitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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