Ion exchange represents one of the most promising processes for ammonium recovery from municipal waste-water (MWW). However, most previous studies on ammonium ion exchange did not optimize the process or evaluate its robustness under real operational conditions. This experimental study aimed at (i) developing a procedure for the selection of a sorbent for selective ammonium removal/recovery from MWW, (ii) validating the procedure by applying it to several sorbents, (iii) performing a preliminary optimization and robustness assessment of ammonium removal/recovery with the selected sorbent. The application of the procedure to natural and synthetic zeolites and a cation exchange resin confirmed that batch isotherm tests need to be integrated by continuous-flow tests. The selected sorbent, a natural mixture of Chabazite and Phillipsite, resulted in high performances in terms of cation exchange capacity (33 mgN gd(ry resin)(-1)), ammonium operating capacity (5.2 mgN g(dry resin)(-1)), ammonium recovery yield (78-91%) and selectivity towards ammonium. The process performances resulted stable during 7 adsorption/desorption cycles conducted with MWW treatment plant effluents in a 60-cm column. The switch to a highly saline effluent produced in a hotspot of seawater intrusion did not determine significant changes in performances. Contact time was reduced to 6 min without any decrease in performances. Potassium - well tolerated by crops - was selected as the regenerating agent, in the perspective to produce a desorbed product to be re-used as fertilizer. The study shows that Chabazite/Phillipsite has a high capacity to recover ammonium from MWW in a circular economy approach.
Ammonium recovery from municipal wastewater by ion exchange: Development and application of a procedure for sorbent selection / Pinelli, D.; Foglia, A.; Fatone, F.; Papa, E.; Maggetti, C.; Bovina, S.; Frascari, D.. - In: JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL CHEMICAL ENGINEERING. - ISSN 2213-3437. - 10:6(2022), p. 108829. [10.1016/j.jece.2022.108829]