Reagentless electrochemically assisted desorption for selective phosphate recovery from wastewater: Proof of concept and mechanism

Pu Wang, Wei Zuo*, Biao Li, Song Wang, Mingyi Xu, Weichen Zhu, Yu Tian, Yifeng Zhang*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Adsorption is a promising technology for removing and recovering phosphorus (P) from wastewater. However, the chemical-intensive regeneration of adsorbents increases carbon emissions and introduces potential secondary pollution. Most existing approaches cannot achieve simultaneous P desorption and selective recovery. For this purpose, a new-type electrochemically assisted phosphate desorption and recovery (EPDR) process was investigated and developed for the efficient desorption and recovery of P and simultaneous regeneration of the adsorbent in situ. In the EPDR process, the adsorbent amorphous zirconium oxide (am-ZrO2) coated carbon felt (CF) was employed as a cathode in an anion-exchange membrane (AEM) water electrolysis cell for P adsorption/desorption and recovery. The P desorption and recovery efficiency from the adsorbent were over 90% at 3.5 V. It was found that the high concentration of OH- at the cathode surface derived from water splitting reaction and electrodialysis under the applied electric field was playing a critical role in the desorption process. Low concentrations of P in actual wastewater were effectively removed, concentrated and recovered under multiple adsorption-desorption cycles with easy-to-scale-up stacked EPDR. The nature of reagent-free, high efficiency and selectivity make EPDR the foundation for developing a cost-effective and green technology for sustainable phosphorus management.
Original languageEnglish
Article number144079
JournalChemical Engineering Journal
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Amorphous zirconium oxide
  • Anion-exchange membrane
  • Water electrolysis
  • Interfacial pH
  • Electrodialysis


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