A team of environmental researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev created a cyclical procedure to eradicate the threat posed by phosphoric acid plant wastewater. The technique converts hazardous wastewater into potable water while retrieving valuable acids. Phosphoric acid is the primary component in industrial fertilizers, which is a large global industry.

Their technique was just published in the ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering journal. Under Dr. Oded Nir's direction, Lior Monat, a PhD student in his lab, spearheaded the research.

"Phosphoric acid production generates a lot of industrial wastewater that cannot be treated efficiently because of its low pH and high precipitation potential," explained Dr. Oded Nir, the co-lead researcher, "Today, the wastewater is usually stored in evaporation ponds. However, these are prone to breaches, leakage, and flooding. Only a few years ago, an ecological disaster in Israel occurred when millions of cubic meters of this acidic wastewater were flushed down a creek. Conventional treatment processes run into difficulties dealing with the acidity, salinity, and hardness of the wastewater. Therefore, we developed an alternative three-step process for the treatment of phosphoric acid wastewater comprised of selective electrodialysis, reverse osmosis, and neutralization."

Minimal energy usage for a sustainable option

The technique was tested in the lab with synthetic wastewater and yielded positive results. The process retrieved clean water and phosphate while lowering wastewater output by 90%. It also did not produce any significant mineral scaling that can clog filters.

"This process is very promising, and we encourage industry players to examine its potential and applicability at their factories," said Dr. Roy Bernstein, co-lead researcher.

The research was supported by Israel Ministry of Science and Technology Grant 3-15505.

To contact the author of this article, email ccooney@globalspec.com