Forward osmosis (FO) is a low-pressure membrane process that can selectively separate low molecular weight neutral compounds such as ammonia from urine. However, an understanding of how un-ionized ammonia transfers is vital for maximizing ammonia recovery. Therefore, this research aimed to determine the transport behavior of low molecular weight neutral nitrogen compounds in order to maximize ammonia recovery from real hydrolyzed human urine by FO. Using urea as a model, batch FO experiments concluded that low molecular weight neutral compound transfer is dependent on concentration equilibrium between the feed and draw solutions due to its ability to freely move across the FO membrane. Therefore, 50% recovery is the theoretical maximum that could be achieved. However, novel strategic pH manipulation between the feed and the draw solution allowed for up to 86% recovery of ammonia by keeping the draw solution pH < 6.5 and the feed solution pH > 11, overcoming the 50% recovery barrier. An economic analysis showed that ammonia recovery by FO has the potential to be more economically favorable compared to ammonia air stripping or ion exchange if the proper draw solute is chosen.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry