UW-Madison Researchers Get Patent for Phosphorus Technology

Wednesday, May 3, 2017
UW-Madison Researchers Get Patent for Phosphorus Technology; Members of the NRU team and the Barak Lab at UW–Madison’s King Hall; Photo Credit- Rick Wayne/UW-Madison
Members of the NRU team and the Barak Lab at UW–Madison’s King Hall. From left to right are Hannah Stern, Tyler Anderson, Mauricio Avila, Menachem Tabanpour, Phillip Barak, Christy Davidson and Nimi Ehr. Photo: Rick Wayne/UW-Madison

University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Phillip Barak has invented a new technology that transforms phosphorus at wastewater treatment plants from a major headache into an asset. During the wastewater treatment process, a phosphorus called struvite forms and clogs up pipes, a problem that costs treatment plants for mid-size cities like Madison about $250,000 annually. Barak found a way to make brushite, a different phosphorus mineral, early in the treatment process, which could reduce struvite plugging. 

The new technology offers multiple benefits to wastewater plants, from operational savings, better ability to comply with regulations, and income from selling brushite, nearly identical to conventional phosphorus fertilizer. In 2011, Barak and two of his former students formed Nutrient Recovery and Upcycling (NRU) to develop and sell the patented phosphorus technology.

Barak’s research was made possible with NIFA support through the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR). Read more on the UWM story.

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