News | July 21, 2021

Turning Pee Into Plant Fertiliser

A new research collaboration is applying innovative filtration technology to turn waste water into liquid gold.

The $3.8M Australian Research Council Hub for Nutrients in a Circular Economy (ARC NiCE Hub) is set to transform the wastewater industry by commercialising urine processing technologies and demonstrating uses of the liquid fertiliser produced.

“Today’s wastewater systems treat urine as a polluting by-product rather than a valuable source of nutrients that can be recycled. The challenge is to find ways to process and recycle these nutrients at scale in our cities and building developments,” says Professor Hokyong Shon, ARC NiCE Hub Director and Deputy Director of the UTS Centre for Technology in Water and Wastewater.

“For the first time in Australia, our collaboration will take a holistic approach to tackling these challenges and create a working circular economy. We want to demonstrate a business model for how the technology and processes will work at scale in large city precincts.”

The Australian Government announced funding of more than $2M over four years for the collaboration as an Industrial Transformation Research Hub.

The UTS-led initiative includes five Australian universities, international research collaborators and 13 commercial and government partners who are together contributing an additional $1.8M to the hub.

"We want to demonstrate a business model for how the technology and processes will work at scale in large city precincts" - Professor Hokyong Shon

Professor Shon will work with the hub partners to further develop and commercialise his fertiliser-drawn forward osmosis (FDFO) technology to use in circular economies in infrastructure and agriculture.

“Through this collaboration, we’re going to demonstrate how our urine-separation technology works in two buildings and then use the resulting liquid fertiliser in field trials in urban-agriculture and parklands,” he says.

“This is a world-first business model for separating urine and building a circular economy with the by-products.”

UTS Professor Bogdan Gabrys is an investigator on another hub to win Australian Government funding – the ARC Research Hub for Digital Bioprocess Development which will support the pharmaceutical industry to increase digital productivity.

Source: University Of Technology, Sydney