Technologies for biological removal and recovery of nitrogen from wastewater
Water contamination is a growing environmental issue. Several harmful effects on human health and the environment are attributed to nitrogen contamination of water sources. Consequently, many countries have strict regulations on nitrogen compound concentrations in wastewater effluents. Wastewater treatment is carried out using energy- and cost-intensive biological processes, which convert nitrogen compounds into innocuous dinitrogen gas. On the other hand, nitrogen is also an essential nutrient. Artificial fertilizers are produced by fixing dinitrogen gas from the atmosphere, in an energy-intensive chemical process. Ideally, we should be able to spend less energy and chemicals to remove nitrogen from wastewater and instead recover a fraction of it for use in fertilizers and similar applications. In this review, we present an overview of various technologies of biological nitrogen removal including nitrification, denitrification, anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox), as well as bioelectrochemical systems and microalgal growth for nitrogen recovery. We highlighted the nitrogen removal efficiency of these systems at different temperatures and operating conditions. The advantages, practical challenges, and potential for nitrogen recovery of different treatment methods are discussed.