Elucidating the impacts of initial supersaturation and seed crystal loading on struvite precipitation kinetics, fines production, and crystal growth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To reduce intra-plant nutrient cycling, and recover phosphorus (P) fertilizers from nutrient-rich sidestreams, wastewater utilities increasingly elect to employ struvite precipitation processes without a clear understanding of the inherent tradeoffs associated with specific design and operating decisions. Specifically, the impact of reactor conditions on struvite crystallization rate, and distribution between formation of fines particles and secondary growth onto large diameter seed crystals represent critical knowledge gaps limiting the predictive capabilities of existing process models. In this work, the relative impacts of initial supersaturation (Si), and seed loading, on P removal kinetics, and struvite solids distribution were investigated. In experiments conducted at different levels of initial supersaturation (1.7–2.4) and seed loading (0–25 g L−1), struvite fines represented the majority of phosphate solids formed in 10 of 12 conditions. While total P removal was dependent on Si, and primarily attributed to formation of fines, the concentration of struvite seed granules had a significant impact on the rate of P removal. Struvite seed granules increased the rate of precipitation by reducing induction time of primary nucleation of struvite fines. Secondary crystal growth represented the majority of struvite solids formed at high seed loading and low Si, but presented the tradeoff of low total removal and low rate of removal. To convey the significance of these findings on process modeling, we show how a prominent kinetic model with a first-order dependency on solid struvite concentration over-predicts P removal rate when total mass is dominated by large diameter seeds (0.9 mm). This works reveals the critical role of struvite fines in P removal, and highlights the need to account for their production and kinetic importance in struvite process design and operation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)252-259
Number of pages8
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018


  • Nucleation
  • Nutrient recovery
  • Phosphorus
  • Struvite precipitation
  • Wastewater treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Elucidating the impacts of initial supersaturation and seed crystal loading on struvite precipitation kinetics, fines production, and crystal growth'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this