Recovery of Ammonia and Production of High-Grade Phosphates from Digester Effluents

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Conservation and recovery of nitrogen and phosphorus from animal wastes and municipal effluents are important because of economic and environmental reasons. This paper presents a novel technology for separation and recovery of ammonia and phosphorus from liquid swine manure, which has significant amount of nutrients but also contains relatively high moisture content.

What Did We Do?

Phosphorus recovery via magnesium (MgCl2) precipitation was enhanced by combining it with ammonia recovery through gas-permeable membranes and low-rate aeration. Detailed procedures used in the research are provided in Vanotti et al. (2017).

Graphic of gas-permeable membrane

What Have We Learned?

The combination of low-rate aeration and gas-permeable membrane N recovery destroyed the natural carbonate alkalinity in the wastewater and increased pH values, which accelerated ammonia uptake in the gas-permeable membrane system and improved the phosphate recovery.  The process provided 100% phosphorus recovery efficiencies.   Surprisingly, the magnesium phosphates produced contained very-high phosphate grade (46% P2O5 ) similar to commercial superphosphate fertilizer and consistent with the composition of a rare biomineral called newberyite  that is found in guano deposits.   This is an important finding because we were able to produce from wastes a valuable phosphate product with high P2O5 content favored by the fertilizer industry.

Future Plans

Research will be summarized showing consistent results obtained with municipal side-stream effluents.  Economic considerations are provided in Dube et at. (2016).

Corresponding author (name, title, affiliation) 

Matias Vanotti, USDA-ARS

Corresponding author email address

Other Authors 

M.B. Vanotti, P.J. Dube, A.A. Szogi, M.C. Garcia-Gonzalez

Additional Information

Dube, P. J., Vanotti, M. B., Szogi, A. A., and García-González, M. C. (2016): Enhancing recovery of ammonia from swine manure anaerobic digester effluent using gas-permeable membrane technology. Waste Management 49:372–377.

Vanotti, M.B., Szogi, A.A., and Dube, P.J.  (2016): Systems and methods for recovering ammonium and phosphorus from liquid effluents. U.S. Patent Application 15/170,129. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Vanotti, M.B., Dube, P.J., Szogi, A.A., M.C. Garcia-Gonzalez (2017): Recovery of ammonia and phosphate minerals from swine wastewater using gas-permeable membranes. Water Research 112:137-146


This article is part of USDA-ARS Project 6082-12630-001-00D “Improvement of Soil Management Practices and Manure Treatment/Handling Systems of the Southern Coastal Plains.”  We acknowledge the field and laboratory assistance of William Brigman and Chris Brown, USDA-ARS, Florence, SC, and the field sampling assistance of Diana Rashash, North Carolina Extension Service/ North Carolina State University.

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