Highly efficient phosphorus recovery from sludge and manure biochars using potassium acetate pre-treatment

Wolfram Buss, Christian Wurzer, Maximillian Bach, Jens Heberling, Thomas Appel, Helmut Gerber, Ondrej Masek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Pyrolysis converts nutrient-rich residues (e.g., sewage sludge and manures) into biochar with low levels of organic contaminants and high nutrient contents. However, the availability of phosphorus (P) as one of the key nutrients in such biochar tends to be low and new approaches are needed to enhance P-availability. In this work we tested and optimised one such method, doping biomass prior to pyrolysis with potassium (K) as potassium acetate. The treatment worked effectively in both pyrolysis units tested (microscale and lab-scale, continuous unit) and all three feedstocks (two types of sewage sludges and swine manure). The most dramatic effect was observed in the microscale pyrolysis unit at 400 ◦C where 5% K doping increased the water-extractable P content 700-fold to 43% of total P. Of the added K, on average 90% was retained in biochar after pyrolysis of which ~50% was water-extractable. The proposed method enables conversion of low-value residues into valuable resources
with agronomically relevant total and available P and K levels. This approach does not require specialised equipment or process modifications and is therefore easy to implement and relatively cheap (~US$ 60–80 t-1 treated feedstock). It can present an urgently required solution to fulfil regulatory requirements for P-recovery.
Original languageEnglish
Article number115035
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Early online date15 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2022


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