PI: Mark A. Snyder
Co-PI(s): Arup SenGupta
University: Lehigh University
The ability to address the problem of pollution nutrient (e.g., phosphorus (P), nitrogen (N)) leakage into surface and ground waters requires efforts to mitigate the effects of the build-up of legacy nutrients. Despite strategies for removal and recovery of P and N nutrients, their common recycle in the form of land-applied fertilizers only leads to a self-propagative build-up of legacy nutrient pollutants. This problem demands a new strategy for recycling nutrients in the form of non-fertilizer products so as to enable permanent removal of pollutant nutrients from the fertilization/fertigation cycle.

This PITA project brings together a team of faculty and PA-based industrial experts (ESSRE, Purolite) to establish the proof-of-principle for how recovered P nutrients can be valorized in the form of specialty ‘green’ energy materials, namely phosphated zeolites (P-ZSM-5). These materials hold specific promise as efficient fluidized catalytic cracking (FCC) catalysts, where the addition of phosphate has been shown to improve activity, stability, and selectivity for conversion of heavy distillates into lighter gasoline, diesel, etc. Moreover, these materials have shown promise for conversion of alternative renewable feedstocks (e.g., biomass) into the same high-value chemicals or liquid fuels derived commonly from petroleum sources. This project will leverage P nutrients, separated from concentrated wastewaters by established ion exchange technologies (HIX-Nano), as a source for the synthesis of ‘green’ P-ZSM-5 catalysts. Identification of critical synthesis-structure-function relations governing the viability of recovered/recycled (rather than pure) P sources for P-ZSM-5 will help establish this ‘green’ energy material as a first example of a non-fertilizer valorization target. This work should subsequently stimulate future diversification of the target materials palette (e.g., battery materials) for non-fertilizer P as well as N pollution nutrient recycle.