This dissertation investigated the use of membrane processes to selectively separate and concentrate nitrogen in human urine. The targeted nitrogen species to be recovered were urea from fresh human urine and unionized ammonia from hydrolyzed human urine. Chapter 1 investigated a novel two-step process of forward osmosis (FO) and membrane distillation (MD) to recover the urea in fresh human urine. Specifically, FO was used to selectively separate urea from the other components in urine and MD was used to concentrate the separated urea. The combined process was able to produce a product solution that had an average urea concentration that is 45–68% of the urea concentration found in the fresh urine with greater than 90% rejection of total organic carbon (TOC).Chapter 2 determined the transport behavior of low molecular weight neutral nitrogen compounds in order to maximize ammonia recovery from real hydrolyzed human urine by FO. Novel strategic pH manipulation between the feed and the draw solution allowed for up to 86% recovery of ammonia by keeping the draw solution pH <6.5 and the feed solution pH >11. An economic analysis showed that ammonia recovery by FO has the potential to be much more economically favorable compared to ammonia air stripping or ion exchange if the proper draw solute is chosen.
Chapter 3 investigated the dead-end rejection of urea in fresh urine at varying pH and the rejection of unionized ammonia and the ammonium ion in hydrolyzed urine by reverse osmosis (RO), nanofiltration (NF), and microfiltration (MF). When these different membrane separation processes were compared, NF is found to be a promising technology to recover up to 90% of ammonia from hydrolyzed urine with a high rejection of salts and organics.
Chapter 4 investigated the use of the RO and NF to recover ammonia from hydrolyzed human urine in a cross-flow system where both rejection and fouling experiments were performed. For both RO and NF, ammonia rejection was found to be 0% while still achieving high rejection of TOC and salts, and MF pretreatment greatly reduced the extent of fouling on the membrane surface.