Nutrient Behavior in Hydrothermal Carbonization Aqueous Phase Following Recirculation and Reuse

Vivian Mau, Juliana Neumann, Bernhard Wehrli, Amit Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) has received much attention in recent years as a process to convert wet organic waste into carbon-rich hydrochar. The process also generates an aqueous phase that is still largely considered a burden. The success of HTC is dependent on finding solutions for the aqueous phase. In the present study, we provide the first investigation of recirculation of the aqueous phase from HTC of poultry litter as a means to concentrate nutrients and its subsequent application to agriculture as a fertilizer. Aqueous-phase recirculation generally resulted in an increase in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium concentrations up to cycle 3 with maximum concentrations reaching up to 5400, 397, and 23300 mg L-1 for N, P, and K, respectively. Recirculation did not adversely affect hydrochar composition or calorific value. The recirculated and nonrecirculated aqueous phases were able to support lettuce growth similar to a commercial fertilizer. Results from this study indicate that the combination of aqueous-phase recirculation and use as a fertilizer could be a suitable method to reutilize the aqueous phase and recycle nutrients back into agriculture, thus increasing HTC efficiency and economic feasibility.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)10426-10434
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number17
StatePublished - 3 Sep 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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