The product of the Carboxyl Acid Platform (CAP, a critical process in converting organic residues from the fruit and vegetable sector into novel bio-based fertilizer products of high quality) is a complex solution containing small carboxyl acids and nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium-based compounds). The presence of these small carboxyl acids in the solution would considerably hamper the production of fertilizers. Therefore, a high-quality and carboxyl-free nutrient solution is highly desired.
This separation is performed using a membrane-based process called electrodialysis. The advantage of this process, as compared to others, is the capacity to separate different compounds as a function of their unique physicochemical properties (charge, size, hydrophobicity, etc.) by the use of tailored ion-exchange membranes and an external potential (voltage). Remarkably, electrodialysis is regarded as a sustainable “green chemistry” process of low impact on the environment compared to other industrial processes. Thus, the target of the PaInT research group is to design an efficient and environmentally friendly electrodialysis-based process to produce high-quality and concentrated nutrients-containing solutions for synthesizing tailored fertilizers for agricultural purposes. Currently, researchers from the PaInT group are performing extensive lab-scale experiments to attain the aforementioned goal at the CAPTURE center in Gent, where different conditions are being tested for lower energy demands and provide pure nutrients solutions.