Research looks to rescue diminishing resource

Global phosphorus reserves could run out within a century with serious consequences for Scotland’s agricultural industry. An essential nutrient widely used in farming, all of the phosphorus relied on by Scotland’s farmers is imported.

Our researchers, alongside 10 European partners, have been awarded almost £500,000 by European Commission body INTERREG NWE to contribute to a project aimed at reclaiming and recycling used phosphorus from waste water.

They will work with partners from the University of Highlands and Islands and Scottish Water to explore various methods of extracting phosphorus and will be responsible for quality control and the analysis of the extracted material to ensure its safety.

Professor Ole Pahl is leading GCU’s team in Phos4You, collaborating with partners from across northwest Europe until 2020.

He hopes Phos4You can demonstrate that phosphorus can be recycled from waste water on a large scale using microscopic plants and wool. 

“We believe we can recover almost half of what we need through this process, with the recovered material being able to be transported to where it’s most needed. We hope that offering a financially beneficial and environmentally friendly solution to the diminishing stock of phosphorus will eventually see it taken up by the whole industry.”

They will work with partners from University of Highlands and Islands and Scottish Water exploring various techniques to extract phosphorus from waste water. They will also be responsible for quality control and analysis of the extracted material, to ensure its safety.

Professor Ole Pahl is leading GCU’s involvement in the inter-regional project with partners from across northwest Europe and it will run until the year 2020.

He is hoping the project, Phos4You, can demonstrate that phosphorus can be recycled from waste water on a large scale with a technique which uses microscopic plants and wool. 

We believe we can recover almost half of what we need through this process, with the recovered material being able to be transported to where it’s most needed. We hope that offering a financially beneficial and environmentally friendly solution to the diminishing stock of phosphorus will eventually see it taken up by the whole industry.

Professor Ole Pahl