Struvite formation and decomposition characteristics for ammonia and phosphorus recovery: A review of magnesium-ammonia-phosphate interactions

Chemosphere. 2018 Mar;194:504-514. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2017.12.004. Epub 2017 Dec 5.


Struvite (MgNH4PO4·6H2O) forms in aqueous systems with high ammonia and phosphate concentrations. However, conditions that result into struvite formation are highly dependent on the ionic compositions, temperature, pH, and ion speciation characteristics. The primary ions involved in struvite formation have complex interactions and can form different crystals depending on the ionic levels, pH and temperature. Struvite as well as struvite analogues (with substitution of monovalent cations for NH4+ or divalent cations for Mg2+) as well as other crystals can form simultaneously and result in changes in crystal morphology during crystal growth. This review provides the results from experimental and theoretical studies on struvite formation and decomposition studies. Characteristics of NH4+ or divalent cations for Mg2+ were evaluated in comparison to monovalent and divalent ions for formation of struvite and its analogues. Struvite crystals forming in wastewater systems are likely to contain crystals other than struvite due to ionic interactions, pH changes, temperature effects and clustering of ions during nucleation and crystal growth. Decomposition of struvite occurs following a series of reactions depending on the rate of heating, temperature and availability of water during heating.

Keywords: Ammonia recovery; Crystallization; Ionic speciation; Struvite; Struvite stability; Wastewater.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ammonia / chemistry
  • Crystallization
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Ions
  • Magnesium / chemistry
  • Phosphorus / chemistry
  • Struvite / chemistry*
  • Temperature
  • Waste Water / chemistry


  • Ions
  • Waste Water
  • Phosphorus
  • Ammonia
  • Struvite
  • Magnesium