Wastewater Treatment for Carbon Dioxide Removal

Vhahangwele Masindi, Spyros Foteinis*, Phil Renforth, Efthalia Chatzisymeon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Wastewater treatment is notorious for its hefty carbon footprint, accounting for 1-2% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Nonetheless, the treatment process itself could also present an innovative carbon dioxide removal (CDR) approach. Here, the calcium (Ca)-rich effluent of a phosphorus (P) recovery system from municipal wastewater (P recovered as calcium phosphate) was used for CDR. The effluent was bubbled with concentrated CO2, leading to its mineralization, i.e., CO2 stored as stable carbonate minerals. The chemical and microstructural properties of the newly formed minerals were ascertained by using state-of-the-art analytical techniques. FTIR identified CO3 bonds and carbonate stretching, XRF and SEM-EDX measured a high Ca concentration, and SEM imaging showed that Ca is well distributed, suggesting homogeneous formation. Furthermore, FIB-SEM revealed rhombohedral and needle-like structures and TEM revealed rod-like structures, indicating that calcium carbonate (CaCO3) was formed, while XRD suggested that this material mainly comprises aragonite and calcite. Results imply that high-quality CaCO3 was synthesized, which could be stored or valorized, while if atmospheric air is used for bubbling, a partial direct air capture (DAC) system could be achieved. The quality of the bubbled effluent was also improved, thus creating water reclamation and circular economy opportunities. Results are indicative of other alkaline Ca-rich wastewaters such as effluents or leachates from legacy iron and steel wastes (steel slags) that can possibly be used for CDR. Overall, it was identified that wastewater can be used for carbon mineralization and can greatly reduce the carbon footprint of the treatment process, thus establishing sustainable paradigms for the introduction of CDR in this sector.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40251–40259
Number of pages9
JournalACS Omega
Issue number43
Early online date19 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering


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