Master’s thesis – Processes of selective phosphorus elimination

In industry and agriculture phosphorus compounds are used mainly in fertilisers, but also, for example, in the production of weapons and matches. About 90% of phosphorus production worldwide is used in phosphate fertilisers.

Discharging of high phosphorus concentrations into a body of water could occur in agriculture when an excessive amount of fertiliser is used. In combination with erosion this incurs the danger of eutrophication – of the accumulation of these phosphates in the body of water. As phosphates are nutrients for plants, plant growth increases and as a result of microbial activity, oxygen consumption rises along with organic sediment coverage. In turn these factors amplify the process of eutrophication and may lead to progressive silting of the water.

For this reason the reduction of phosphorus emissions of municipal wastewater treatment plants is crucial to maintain a state of surface waters that is both ecologically and chemically stable. At the same time research into methods of phosphorus recovery is an important issue in light of the increasing scarcity of phosphate deposits.

The topic of Matthias Funk’s Master’s thesis is an overview of different processes of phosphorus elimination that are used in municipal wastewater treatment. Besides detailing the state-of-the-art process technologies, the author focuses on alternative processes and technologies of phosphorus elimination from wastewater and examines the available methods and materials. Furthermore, an analysis of the technical and economic feasibility of selected materials with the potential of targeted phosphorus recovery forms part of the thesis.