Adsorption as a technology to achieve ultra-low concentrations of phosphate: Research gaps and economic analysis

Prashanth Suresh Kumar*, Leon Korving, Mark C.M. van Loosdrecht, Geert Jan Witkamp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleScientificpeer-review

139 Citations (Scopus)
279 Downloads (Pure)


Eutrophication and the resulting formation of harmful algal blooms (HAB) causes huge economic and environmental damages. Phosphorus (P) from sewage effluent and agricultural run-off has been identified as a major cause for eutrophication. Phosphorous concentrations greater than 100 μg P/L are usually considered high enough to cause eutrophication. The strictest regulations however aim to restrict the concentration below 10 μg P/L. Orthophosphate (or phosphate) is the bioavailable form of phosphorus. Adsorption is often suggested as technology to reduce phosphate to concentrations less than 100 and even 10 μg P/L with the advantages of a low-footprint, minimal waste generation and the option to recover the phosphate. Although many studies report on phosphate adsorption, there is insufficient information regarding parameters that are necessary to evaluate its application on a large scale. This review discusses the main parameters that affect the economics of phosphate adsorption and highlights the research gaps. A scenario and sensitivity analysis shows the importance of adsorbent regeneration and reuse. The cost of phosphate adsorption using reusable porous metal oxide is in the range of $ 100 to 200/Kg P for reducing the phosphate to ultra-low concentrations. Future research needs to focus on adsorption capacity at low phosphate concentrations, regeneration and reuse of both the adsorbent and the regeneration liquid.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100029
Number of pages17
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Adsorption
  • Economic analysis
  • Eutrophication
  • Phosphate
  • Regeneration
  • Ultra-low concentration


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