Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

Sarina Ergas

Co-Major Professor

Jeffrey Cunningham


confined animal feeding operation (CAFO), farm, fertilizer, struvite, synthetic, wastewater


Swine production represents approximately 40% of the world's meat production, and its wastes contain high concentrations of organic carbon, nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P). Anaerobic digestion is an increasingly popular technology for treating animal wastes while simultaneously generating energy. Its propagation and ability to solubilize organic N and P make adding a struvite recovery process attractive. Recovering struvite (MgNH4PO4) from anaerobically digested swine waste can address global P shortages, meet P discharge guidelines, and produce slow-release fertilizer, which can be sold for revenue.

Anaerobic digesters were operated with at organic loading rates of 3.4-3.9 g volatile solids per liter per day to provide consistent effluent for struvite precipitation studies. Three research questions about struvite precipitation were addressed in this study, specifically what is the (1) required Mg:PO4 ratio, (2) effect of organic matter, and (3) effect of storage time and conditions on struvite precipitation from effluent of anaerobically digested swine manure? Mg:PO4 ratios between 1.3-1.8 were determined to be the economic optimum and precipitated 81-90% of P from synthetic wastewater with calcium phosphate minerals dominating. Under P-limited conditions, a chemical equilibrium model (Visual MINTEQ v.3.0) predicted over 99% P removal with a precipitate mixture of struvite, calcium phosphates, and magnesite. Synthetic wastewater experiments without organic matter removed approximately 85% P with a precipitate mixture of struvite, dolomite, calcite, brucite, and calcium phosphates. Real swine effluent removed more than 95% of P and had a similar mixture of precipitates as synthetic wastewater, but in different concentrations. Organic acids were suspected to prevent struvite formation. Stored anaerobically digested swine wastewater under varying conditions all suggest calcium phosphates form naturally over time. Precipitation of struvite is best carried out as soon as possible to increase the purity of struvite. Although struvite recovery was possible, the conditions for struvite precipitation must be controlled carefully to obtain highly pure struvite.