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Scientists in Spain develop membranes that transform polluting farm waste into fertilizer

Members of the LIFE Ammonia Trapping project have created a novel system which converts ammonia emissions into a valuable fertilizer.

Industrial Technologies

Scientists of the Ammonia Trapping project, funded by the European Union through the LIFE programme, have developed a membrane device that transforms ammonia from farm waste into an agricultural fertilizer. The two prototypes tested, one for liquid waste (manure) and the other for gas, have shown very promising results, reporting up to a 50% removal of total ammoniacal nitrogen, of which 80% was recovered as ammonium salt. “With funding, a final commercial prototype could be ready in two years,” says Mercedes Sánchez, professor at the University of Valladolid (Spain) and lead researcher of the project. Ammonia emissions are a serious problem for human health and the environment, and it has been addressed as such by the European Union. However, the emission thresholds established in 2010 by the European Parliament and Council, with a compliance deadline in 2030, are still far from being reached. In Europe, agriculture and livestock are responsible for 94% of ammonia emissions. “Pig and poultry farms are the greatest contributors, as they have the largest facilities,” explains Sánchez. “These sectors’ growth will be strongly limited due to ammonia emissions if the matter is not addressed.” Ammonia Trapping membranes also present economic benefits, as farms’ waste is recovered in the form of a fertilizer. The ammonium salt generated by these devices has already been tested in crops. Compared to its commercial version, the fertilizer obtained from the membranes generates similar or higher yields. The Ammonia Trapping technology can both reduce the cost of waste management in the livestock sector and generate a valuable agricultural product that was formerly scarce, in a sustainable way. After the successful prototype testing in poultry and pig farms, the final results of the project will be presented in two online technical workshops, on the 24th and 25th of September.