ICP-OES: Elemental analysis provides data basis for the recovery of phosphorus from sewage sludge

08.08.2022 | 뉴스

Phosphorus recovery from sewage sludge will be required by law in Germany in a few years. The ICP-OES device PlasmaQuant 9100 from Analytik Jena determines the contained nutrients and critical elements in a single measurement cycle, without time-consuming

Jena, 8 August, 2022 – Phosphorus and phosphorus compounds are essential for all life on earth and important basic materials for fertilizers. Population growth and new development of agricultural land in many regions have caused fertilizer consumption to increase worldwide. "This development means that, in addition to few naturally occurring phosphorus deposits, sewage sludge will play an increasingly important role as a source of phosphorus," says Bernd Bletzinger, team leader environment at Analytik Jena.

Operators of wastewater treatment plants need reliable data to identify the elemental content in the sludge and assess its recycling potential. With the PlasmaQuant 9100, Analytik Jena offers a suitable measuring instrument for this purpose. With this multi-element analyzer, elements can be determined precisely and rapidly.

Phosphorus recovery is also a legal issue. Classified as a critical raw material by the European Commission, the German Sewage Sludge Ordinance (AbfKlärV) makes recovery mandatory starting January 2029. Wastewater treatment plant operators must - depending on the size of their municipal discharge area - gradually implement phosphorus recovery from sewage sludge or its incineration ash if the phosphorus content exceeds 20 grams or more per kilogram of dry matter.

However, sewage sludge also contains heavy metals and other pollutants that must not be released into the environment. In addition, sewage sludge yields are high matrix samples. They contain a very wide range of elements in very different concentrations, as well as high proportions of salt compounds. This presents a challenge for high-throughput measurement.

The PlasmaQuant 9100 uses the principle of inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES). Samples are atomized, activated, and then ionized over 5,000-10,000 Kelvin argon plasma. A spectrometer measures the emitted electromagnetic radiation. The resulting signal intensities provide information about the concentration of the contained elements. The application is described in the EPA methods 3050B and 6010C, as well as in the standards DIN EN 16174:2012-11 and ISO 11885:2007.

High measurement sensitivity is particularly relevant for the critical elements (e.g., cadmium, mercury, and thallium), as strict limits apply to their release into the environment. The DualView Plus feature of the PlasmaQuant 9100 extends the linear dynamic range and greatly simplifies multi-element analysis by allowing the entire element screening to be performed simultaneously in one measurement run through different plasma observation modes, while maintaining the best possible detection strength for critical elements.

The entire analysis process becomes faster, more reliable, and more economical. Since the PlasmaQuant 9100 is characterized by very stable plasma, high-matrix samples can be measured with long-term stability also at high throughput. Also, sample dilution becomes obsolete.

"Based on the results obtained, wastewater treatment plant operators can make the right decision on how to proceed with the sewage sludge, and both legally and economically," explains Bernd Bletzinger. Recovery can sometimes be interesting even with lower phosphorus contents, especially if other valuable minerals such as sodium or potassium are also contained.

Phosphorus recovery from sewage sludge is an important step in the direction of a sustainable circular economy. Local recovery creates more independence from the few worldwide deposits and from the global supply chains. This is not only eco-friendly, but also contributes to security of supply.

Further information can be found at blog post Analytik Jena Phosphorus Recovery – Reliable Analysis of Sewage Sludge with ICP-OES


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