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Nitrogen recovery from wastewater and human urine with hydrophobic gas separation membrane: experiments and modelling

  • Nagy, Judit1, 2
  • Kaljunen, Juho3
  • Toth, Andras Jozsef4, 5
  • 1 Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Department of Building Services and Process Engineering, Műegyetem rkp. 3, Budapest, 1111, Hungary , Budapest (Hungary)
  • 2 Széchenyi István University, Department of Applied Mechanics, Faculty of Mechanical, Informatics and Electrical Engineering, Egyetem tér 1, Győr, 9026, Hungary , Győr (Hungary)
  • 3 Aalto University, Department of Built Engineering, School of Engineering, Tietotie 1 E, Espoo, 02150, Finland , Espoo (Finland)
  • 4 Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Department of Chemical and Environmental Process Engineering, Faculty of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology, Műegyetem rkp. 3, Budapest, 1111, Hungary , Budapest (Hungary)
  • 5 University of Miskolc, Institute of Chemistry, Egyetemváros C/1 108, Miskolc, 3515, Hungary , Miskolc (Hungary)
Published Article
Chemical Papers
Springer International Publishing
Publication Date
Mar 15, 2019
DOI: 10.1007/s11696-019-00740-x
Springer Nature


In agriculture, the human urine could have been used as a natural fertilizer, although there are some problems with the direct utilization, such as the presence of micropollutants in urine, odour and storage of large volume of urine. Therefore, nutrients, such as nitrogen, can be recovered from urine. Continuous flow laboratory membrane reactor was built to investigate nitrogen recovery from wastewater and from human urine. Membrane gas separation method has not been investigated for ammonia recovery from human urine yet. Nitrogen as ammonia gas was recovered in acid using Zeus Aeos™ ePTFE gas-permeable hydrophobic membrane. Acid flux, operating pH, hydraulic retention time and effective membrane surface were experimentally determined. The aim of this work was to verify wastewater experiments in professional flowsheet environment, rigorously modelled with ChemCAD and optimized by dynamic programming optimization method: the membrane separation. Such nitrogen recovery membrane separation has not been published in this professional flowsheet environment yet. The objective function of the process is the ammonia harvesting efficiency. Eighty-five percentage ammonia harvesting efficiency can be reached with 60 membrane surface area/reactor volume ratio, at 35 °C feed temperature with 350 L/m2h acid and in 8 h’ hydraulic retention time. It can be stated that this separation method is based on physical phenomena without any biological factors. The focus for nitrogen treatment in a wastewater treatment plant is removal instead of recovery. It can be determined that this system is capable for the nitrogen recovery from wastewater, and it can reduce the ammonia content of human urine too.

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