Source-separated urine opens golden opportunities for microbial electrochemical technologies

Pablo Ledezma, Philipp Kuntke, Cees J.N. Buisman, Jürg Keller, Stefano Freguia*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

146 Citations (Scopus)


The food security of a booming global population demands a continuous and sustainable supply of fertilisers. Their current once-through use [especially of the macronutrients nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K)] requires a paradigm shift towards recovery and reuse. In the case of source-separated urine, efficient recovery could supply 20% of current macronutrient usage and remove 50-80% of nutrients present in wastewater. However, suitable technology options are needed to allow nutrients to be separated from urine close to the source. Thus far none of the proposed solutions has been widely implemented due to intrinsic limitations. Microbial electrochemical technologies (METs) have proved to be technically and economically viable for N recovery from urine, opening the path for novel decentralised systems focused on nutrient recovery and reuse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-220
JournalTrends in Biotechnology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • Microbial electrochemical system
  • Microbial electrolysis cell
  • Microbial fuel cell
  • Nutrient recovery
  • Source-separated urine
  • Water-energy-nutrients nexus


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