Human urine as a forward osmosis draw solution for the application of microalgae dewatering.J Hazard Mater 2019; 378:120724JH
Human urine is a unique solution that has the right composition to constitute both a severe environmental threat and a rich source of nitrogen and phosphorous. In fact, between 4-9% of urine mass consists of ions, such as K+, Cl-, Na+ or NH4+. Because of its high ionic strength, urine osmotic pressure can reach values of up to 2000 kPa. With this in mind, this work aimed to study the effectiveness of real urine as a novel draw solution for forward osmosis. Water flux, reverse nitrogen flux and membrane fouling were investigated using fresh or hydrolysed urine. Water flux as high as 16.7 ± 1.1 L m-2 h-1 was recorded using real hydrolysed urine. Additionally, no support layer membrane fouling was noticed in over 20 h of experimentation. Urine was also employed to dewater a Chlorella vulgaris culture. A fourfold increase in algal concentration was achieved while having an average flux of 14.1 L m-2 h-1. During the algae dewatering, a flux decrease of about 19% was noticed; this was mainly due to a thin layer of algal deposition on the active side of the membrane. Overall, human urine was found to be an effective draw solution for forward osmosis.