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Earth Science Technology

Device Mines Precious Phosphorus From Sewage 96

Posted by Soulskill
from the still-working-on-vespene dept.
ckwu writes "Scientists predict that the scarcity of phosphorus will increase over the next few decades as the growing demand for agricultural fertilizer depletes geologic reserves of the element. Meanwhile, phosphates released from wastewater into natural waterways can cause harmful algal blooms and low-oxygen conditions that can threaten to kill fish. Now a team of researchers has designed a system that could help solve both of these problems. It captures phosphorus from sewage waste and delivers clean water using a combined osmosis-distillation process. The system improves upon current methods by reducing the amounts of chemicals needed to precipitate a phosphorus mineral from the wastewater, thus bringing down the cost of the recovery process."
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Device Mines Precious Phosphorus From Sewage

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  • by mlts (1038732) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @03:56PM (#46093649)

    Sewage is one thing, but if we can mine storm drains where the golf course runoff goes, that is where this device would be extremely useful.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @04:45PM (#46094205) Journal
    " "Why do the smoke-stacks have those things like balconies around them?" enquired Lenina. "Phosphorus recovery," explained Henry telegraphically. "On their way up the chimney the gases go through four separate treatments. P2O5 used to go right out of circulation every time they cremated some one. Now they recover over ninety-eight per cent of it. More than a kilo and a half per adult corpse. Which makes the best part of four hundred tons of phosphorus every year from England alone." Henry spoke with a happy pride, rejoicing whole-heartedly in the achievement, as though it had been his own. "Fine to think we can go on being socially useful even after we're dead. Making plants grow." Lenina, meanwhile, had turned her eyes away and was looking perpendicularly downwards at the monorail station. "Fine," she agreed. "But queer that Alphas and Betas won't make any more plants grow than those nasty little Gammas and Deltas and Epsilons down there." "All men are physico-chemically equal," said Henry sententiously."

    " The Savage was reading Romeo and Juliet aloud–reading (for all the time he was seeing himself as Romeo and Lenina as Juliet) with an intense and quivering passion. Helmholtz had listened to the scene of the lovers' first meeting with a puzzled interest. The scene in the orchard had delighted him with its poetry; but the sentiments expressed had made him smile. Getting into such a state about having a girl–it seemed rather ridiculous. But, taken detail by verbal detail, what a superb piece of emotional engineering! "That old fellow," he said, "he makes our best propaganda technicians look absolutely silly." The Savage smiled triumphantly and resumed his reading. All went tolerably well until, in the last scene of the third act, Capulet and Lady Capulet began to bully Juliet to marry Paris. Helmholtz had been restless throughout the entire scene; but when, pathetically mimed by the Savage, Juliet cried out:

    "Is there no pity sitting in the clouds, That sees into the bottom of my grief? O sweet my mother, cast me not away: Delay this marriage for a month, a week; Or, if you do not, make the bridal bed In that dim monument where Tybalt lies "

    when Juliet said this, Helmholtz broke out in an explosion of uncontrollable guffawing.

    The mother and father (grotesque obscenity) forcing the daughter to have some one she didn't want! And the idiotic girl not saying that she was having some one else whom (for the moment, at any rate) she preferred! In its smutty absurdity the situation was irresistibly comical. He had managed, with a heroic effort, to hold down the mounting pressure of his hilarity; but "sweet mother" (in the Savage's tremulous tone of anguish) and the reference to Tybalt lying dead, but evidently uncremated and wasting his phosphorus on a dim monument, were too much for him. He laughed and laughed till the tears streamed down his face–quenchlessly laughed while, pale with a sense of outrage, the Savage looked at him over the top of his book and then, as the laughter still continued, closed it indignantly, got up and, with the gesture of one who removes his pearl from before swine, locked it away in its drawer. "

    -Brave New World

    The recognition that running out of phosphorus is serious shit isn't even all that new.
  • by slew (2918) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @07:04PM (#46095595)

    Originally, most phosphate production came from guano (basically petrified seabird poop). It was so strategically valuable, that the USA was allowing people to annex islands and exercise mining rights [] with US military backing. The country of Nauru (aka Pleasant Island) once based their entire economy on it.

    Of course, as with most things, we literally ate it all up (it's used to make fertilizer for plants) and now we rely on other sources. Then of course there are people that argue we have reached peak phosphorus [] production of all possible sources...

    What resource shall we queue up next in our sky-is-falling headline of-the-week?

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.