Phosphorus recovery in an acidic environment using layer-by-layer modified membranes
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Phosphorus (P) is a limited natural resource and essential for global food supply, particularly given our ever-growing world population. However, natural P deposits are restricted to just a few countries and the quality of exploited primary sources is declining. Phosphorus recovery from sewage sludge or sewage sludge ash leached by acids is hence gaining importance. During P recovery the removal of impurities is a challenge that can be addressed by nanofiltration retaining e. g. multivalent metals and allowing phosphoric acid to pass. However, currently available membranes show low permeability and limit this process option economically. Layer-by-layer (LbL) membrane synthesis is a technology that allows membrane performance to be tailored to individual filtration tasks. Little is known for such membranes with respect to acid resistance, acid permeability and impurity rejection. We show that LBL membranes based on PDADMAC/PSS show the desired passage of phosphoric acid with retentions values below 10%, aluminum retention was always above 95%. Permeabilities up to 4 L/(m2 h bar) were reached even up to a phosphorous recovery of 75%. Overall permeabilities were 16 times higher than a commercial benchmark membrane. Initial stability tests and upscaling into a larger module show the viability of the proposed modification approach.