Harvesting Energy And Water From Fertilizer Osmosis

No Thumbnail Available



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The potential for concentrated fertilizer to drive water treatment, nutrient recovery, and power generation has received increased attention. Large amounts of energy are wasted in agricultural systems each time concentrated fertilizers are diluted in water for fertigation, such as is common in hydroponic cultivation. This energy can be harnessed and converted to mechanical work or electricity to take a considerable load off specific farm subsystems, such as pumping and ventilation, or can directly drive desalination and filtration of non-potable waters such as seawater and wastewater. This thesis analyzes membrane processes for converting fertilizer energy to useful work. First, the novel concept of using fertilizer to generate power via pressure retarded osmosis (PRO) is introduced. Second, the concept of fertilizer PRO is experimentally validated, and power generation and energy recovery are shown for a range of common fertilizers. Third, the thermodynamic and practical limitations of recovering energy from fertilizer are established using a number of new analytical, numerical, and experimental methods. Finally, an alternative to energy recovery is examined, namely the possibility of using fertilizer to drive forward osmosis (FO) to recover clean irrigation water from wastewater feed sources. The limitations of fertilizer FO are also established, again using a number of new analytical, numerical, and experimental methods. Results indicate that up to 1200 l of water and 125 Wh of energy may theoretically be recovered per kg of fertilizer, when low-concentration municipal wastewater is available. Given typical nutrient requirements for hydroponic plant cultivation, such values approach nearly 500 % of necessary irrigation water and 5 % of the electricity consumed by a typical greenhouse. However, practical limitations and non-ideal transport dynamics reduce these values and must be overcome in future research, so that fertilizer energy can be economically deployed to farm systems. To conclude, other applications of fertilizer energy are introduced and pathways for future research and development are discussed. This research may contribute to the future of sustainable agriculture by opening up new possibilities for energy efficiency, water security, and food productivity.



Mechanical engineering, Fertilizer osmosis, Food-energy-water nexus, Forward osmosis, Hydroponic plant cultivation, Pressure retarded osmosis, Water recovery