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.”

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. 

Clarkson University is a proven leader in technological education, research, innovation and sustainable economic development. With its main campus in Potsdam, N.Y., and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Hudson Valley, Clarkson faculty have a direct impact on more than 7,800 students annually through nationally recognized undergraduate and graduate STEM designated degrees in engineering, business, science and health professions; executive education, industry-relevant credentials and K-12 STEM programs. Alumni earn salaries among the top 2% in the nation: one in five already leads in the c-suite. To learn more go to
Photograph for media use is available at: