Crystallization kinetics and growth of struvite crystals by seawater versus magnesium chloride as magnesium source: Towards enhancing sustainability and economics of struvite crystallization
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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The recycling of nutrients from wastewater and their recovery in the form of valuable products is an effective strategy to accelerate the circular economy concept. Phosphorus recovery from wastewater by struvite crystallization (MgNH4PO4·6H2O) is one of the most applied techniques to compensate for the increasing demand and to slow down the depletion rate of phosphate rocks. Using low-cost magnesium sources, such as seawater, improves the financial sustainability of struvite production. In this study, the potential of seawater for struvite crystallization versus the commonly used magnesium source, MgCl2, was tested by crystal growth and kinetic experiments. The impact of ammonium concentration, magnesium concentration and pH on the growth kinetics of struvite in synthetic and real reject water were studied. The results showed that simultaneous precipitation of calcium phosphate was insignificant when using seawater, while presence of struvite seeds diminished it further. Among the supersaturation regulators, pH had the most significant effect on the struvite growth with both MgCl2 and seawater, while high N:P molar ratios further improved the struvite crystal growth by seawater. The N:P molar ratios higher than 6 and Mg:P molar ratios higher than 0.2 are recommended to improve the crystal growth kinetics. It was concluded that seawater is a promising alternative magnesium source and the control of supersaturation regulators (i.e., Mg:P, N:P and pH) is an effective strategy to control the reaction kinetics and product properties.