Sewage waste has been a long-standing problem in the Philippines—it is one of the factors causing heavy floods in cities and provinces, which then results in loss of lives. But thanks to the efforts of a team of scientists and researchers, sludge—the mud-like substance that is a by-product of wastewater treatment—can now be transformed into fertilizers.
The “Water-Energy-Nutrient Nexus in the Cities of the Future” is a project headed by De La Salle University Professor Michael Angelo Promentilla and Dr. Devendra Saroj from the University of Surrey. This project was funded by the DOST-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) and the UKRI Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, its counterpart in the United Kingdom.
The project aims to obtain phosphorus and nitrogen—nutrients found in fertilizers—from the sludge. Professor Promentilla and Dr. Saroj’s team devised a way to make the filtered sludge react with water so that the phosphorus precipitates and forms crystals. These crystals are called magnesium-ammonium-phosphate or struvite.
“Yung struvite is a slow-release fertilizer. It is unlike fast-releasing commercial fertilizers, kung saan nagagamit lang ng plants is about 10 percent [of the nutrients in the fertilizer],” Professor Promentilla tells GMA News.
The team has already found a way to do this but is still trying to “perfect” the process. They are trying to remove more impurities from the mixture, but are also looking if these impurities are useful for plants.
Newton Prize Philippines
Huge congratulations to Prof Mike Promentilla for bagging the #NewtonPrize Award! Watch the video to learn more about his #NewtonAgham project and collaboration with Prof Devendra Saroj of the University of Surrey on the winning piece. ??#UKPinoyPride #CloserThanYouThink
Posted by British Embassy Manila on Monday, January 27, 2020
With this ingenious project, Professor Promentilla and Dr. Saroj’s team won the coveted 2019 Newton Prize Philippines—an award from The Newton Fund that “aims to support research and innovation projects that support the economic development and social welfare in the Philippines.”
Aside from the award, the team also received a £200,000, or around P13.2 million cash prize. The project was one of the five chosen to vie for the prize—and was also one of the three projects that were chosen and funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
On February 12, Professor Promentilla and Dr. Saroj’s team will also be competing in the United Kingdom against teams from China and Indonesia for the Newton Prize Chair’s Award which will grant them a maximum of £500,000 (around P33 million) in funding.