Novel Lignin-based Magnetite Nanocomposites for Removal of Phosphate from Contaminated Waters

EPA Contract Number: EPD13044
Title: Novel Lignin-based Magnetite Nanocomposites for Removal of Phosphate from Contaminated Waters
Investigators: Toland, Alan
Small Business: Synanomet LLC
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: II
Project Period: July 29, 2013 through July 28, 2015
Project Amount: $299,987
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2013) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Wastewater, Stormwater, and Water Reuse


Phosphorus (P) remediation is an extremely difficult and costly environmental problem and could cost $44.5 billion for treatment using conventional water treatment plants to meet EPA requirements. Phosphorus runoffs can lead to “dead zones” due to eutrophication and also can cause hypoxia, leading to death of aquatic life that thrive in an oxygen-rich environment.

No commercial product is being marketed for P removal from large water sources to bring down P to ultralow levels to meet EPA requirements in an economical manner. The upper limit for phosphate in stream discharge is typically 1 mg/L and further lowering to < 0.1 mg/L is required to meet or exceed current EPA standards.

Synanomet, LLC, has acquired exclusive license for the manufacture and use of patented and patent-pending technologies for water purification from the University of Arkansas. The technology utilizes magnetic nanocomposites made from renewable resources and is an environmentally friendly, fast and economical process. In Phase I, we demonstrated that high surface area magnetite particles embedded in wood are highly efficient in reducing P to ultralow levels (as much as 0.01 mg/L). The adsorbed P can be recovered from the media and potentially recycled as fertilizers in the form of calcium phosphate or MgNH4PO4. We also have shown that the media can be regenerated at least 10 times for successive P removal. These wood based nanocomposites also can be completely carbonized to yield carbon-magnetite nanocomposites with P removal capability and for more selected applications, such as odor suppression and oil recovery following an oil spill.

The scale up of these nanocomposites is needed for pilot plant studies. Agreements are in place with Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), affiliated with the University of North Dakota, for scale-up work in kilogram quantities using a fluid bed continuous reactor as well as hot bed rotary kiln. The composites will be evaluated by Parkson Corporation and AbTech Industries for P removal and media regeneration. Norit, Inc., has agreed to evaluate the materials for odor suppression. Field studies of the use of these nanocomposites will allow Synanomet to leverage its position in the P removal sector.

Commercial applications of the composites will include not only P removal but also the potential removal of heavy metals such as chromium, arsenic and selenium. Removal of odor from biogas and the separation of oil and toxic organic compounds from contaminated waters is envisioned.

Supplemental Keywords:

water, nanocomposite, phosphate, contamination, pollution, carbon-magnetite nanocomposite, SBIR, agricultural runoff, aqueous phosphate removal, eutrophication, watershed restoration

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final

  • SBIR Phase I:

    Novel Lignin-Based Magnetite Nanocomposites for Removal of Phosphate from Contaminated Waters  | Final Report