Clarkson Professors Awarded $749,000 USDA Grant to Develop Technology to Remove Phosphate from Agricultural Fields and Prevent Nutrient Pollution

October 20, 2023

Silvana Andreescu, Egon Matijevic Endowed Chair Professor of Chemistry and Biomolecular Science in the School of Arts and Sciences and Stefan Grimberg, Professor of Environmental Engineering in the Coulter School of Engineering and Co-Director of the NYS Center of Excellence in Healthy Water Solutions and their partners at the W.H. Miner Research Institute have been awarded a $749,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for their research project “Nanoadsorbents for Phosphate Capture and Recovery from Tile Drainage.”

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side-by-side portraits of Silvana Andreescu and Stefan Grimberg

Global food production relies on the use of phosphate fertilizers for the treatment of crops. About 80 percent of the mined phosphate ends up in fertilizers, pesticides and animal feeds, but almost half of this is lost through soil leaching and erosion. Tile drainage is used on many poorly drained agricultural fields to extend growing seasons and increase crop yields. Phosphate loading in tile drainage represents 30 to 50 percent of the total phosphate-runoff from agricultural fields, resulting in water eutrophication which has severe consequences on the environment and aquatic ecosystem.

The Clarkson team will develop a sorbent and field-ready filtration system to capture and recover phosphate from tile drainage and reduce the phosphate burden to watersheds. The recovered phosphate can be further used as a fertilizer, and provide a renewable supply and economic opportunities to farmers.

This process will significantly decrease environmental impact and provide a renewable phosphate supply, improving sustainability of agricultural practices. The project will for the first time extend the use of a nanotechnology innovation to develop a large-scale field-ready phosphate recovery process and implement it into agricultural practices to mitigate consequences of nutrient pollution. This technology can be useful to farmers, the environmental community and agricultural practitioners, looking for solutions to improve cost and sustainability of their practices.  

The team acknowledges Clarkson’s investment in this project through a Clarkson Ignite (2019) fellowship (Karel Czanderna '77 and Dan Shirkey ‘80) and a Clarkson-SUNY ESF Center of Excellence (CoE) in Healthy Water Solutions seed grant which enabled the team to obtain preliminary data to demonstrate potential of their nanotechnology innovation for mitigating nutrient pollution. 

As a private, national research university, Clarkson is a leader in technological education and sustainable economic development through teaching, scholarship, research and innovation. We ignite personal connections across academic fields and industries to create the entrepreneurial mindset, knowledge and intellectual curiosity needed to innovate world-relevant solutions and cultivate the leaders of tomorrow. With its main campus located in Potsdam, N.Y., and additional graduate program and research facilities in the New York Capital Region, Beacon, N.Y., and New York City, Clarkson educates 4,000+ students across 95 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, the arts, education, sciences and health professions. Our alumni earn salaries that are among the top 2% in the nation and realize accelerated career growth. One in five already leads as a CEO, senior executive or owner of a company. To learn more about Clarkson University, go to www.clarkson.edu.
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