An Ohio University faculty member who is a chemical engineering researcher recently received a $200,000 grant from the Ohio Water Development Authority to further develop a technology that electrochemically induces the capture of valuable nutrients from animal waste to remediate watershed pollution.
Damilola Daramola, assistant director for research at the Russ College of Engineering and Technology’s Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment, and an assistant professor of instruction, is building upon a process that captures phosphorus as a solid by converting electricity and oxygen to effect a high pH, which favors this capture. This reduces watershed pollution and algae blooms that occur from farmland runoff.
Daramola said the technology could impact the agricultural sector, wherein animal waste is used to supplement plant nutrients via the spreading of manure.
“A potential reduction in the amount of nutrients in the manure prior to distribution could both optimize farm operations through potentially housing more animals on-site, while also mitigating the excess nutrients that wash into natural water systems,” Daramola said.
Daramola is also building models to compare the cost of removal of the nutrient versus the cost of conversion.
“Although both directions increase environmental sustainability, in one scenario the recovered material could be re-sold for a price to recoup the cost of the recovery, Daramola said. “The open question is whether that recovery would be worth it.”
Another advantage is the use of a self-contained system, as opposed to a purely chemical one, for managing the nutrient source.
Daramola’s past work – including research on solid oxide fuel cells as a graduate student at OHIO, and surface analyses for catalysts to remove nitrogen from water – inspired his current work in wastewater remediation. He wants to influence moving closer to a circular economy regarding global water consumption.
“My father owns a water plant back home in Nigeria, and my graduate project focused on ways to convert nutrients in water to energy,” he explained.
Daramola also cites the project’s predecessors.
“A key inspiration for this work were the original findings of my colleagues: Drs. Jason Trembly and Zineb Belarbi,” he said. “Their foundational work published in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society helped establish the parameters of interest.”
Trembly noted that the outcomes have broad benefits.
“Dr. Daramola’s work expands upon ISEE’s efforts to develop implementable solutions to critical energy and environmental issues impacting the nation,” he said. “This technology, if successful, will help reduce watershed pollution and farming costs, while increasing nutrient recycling in the agricultural sector.”