A ”mistake” in the lab laid the foundation for EasyMining

It started with a mistake which in actual fact turned out to be a completely new way of recovering phosphorus from ash and sewage sludge. When Yariv Cohen, now research and development manager at EasyMining, was doing his doctorate in phosphorus recovery, he came to the lab one morning to find the system clogged up with crystals. They turned out to be pure phosphorus crystals, and the discovery is the basis for EasyMining’s first, pioneering Clean-MAP patent.

Yariv Cohen’s PhD is in phosphorus recovery from ash and sewage sludge from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SLU, in Uppsala. On one occasion, he was conducting tests to dissolve phosphorus and had set up equipment for it in the lab. When he arrived in the morning, the system had become clogged up with white crystals.

”First I thought that there had been a mistake, but I then started to analyse the crystals and discovered that it was pure phosphorus crystals. That ”mistake” got us to rethink, and we put a lot of work into understanding what had happened and utilising the knowledge to design a new system,” Yariv says.

Resulted in pioneering patent

When Yariv was doing his PhD at SLU in 2002, his supervisor put him in contact with Patrik Enfält, who at that time was working on innovation development and supporting researchers in the commercialisation process. They started to collaborate on Yariv’s discovery, which eventually resulted in the Clean-MAP patent.

”When the first Clean-MAP innovation arrived in 2006, it was a completely new way to produce a pure, recovered phosphorus fertiliser in an energy efficient way. Ammonium phosphate, which is the phosphorus fertiliser with the highest global production, is manufactured in the process,” Patrik says.

Innovations important for the circular economy

Marketing the process was a natural step, and in 2007 EasyMining was established by Patrik and Yariv, among others.  Ragn-Sells entered as financier in 2010, and in 2014 the recycling company acquired the entire business, which has subsequently grown. The base is still in Uppsala where EasyMining has its laboratory as well as a pilot plant. The company also has operations in Gothenburg.

”Our work entails developing expertise to be able to take new innovations from the lab to full-scale production. We can apply that knowledge to several different materials, and we have a clear focus on waste. EasyMining’s advanced technology can extract important materials from waste, which produces major opportunities in the transition to a circular economy,” Yariv says.

Working on new projects

Besides Clean-MAP, EasyMining has several other patents. Ash2Phos is a separation technology which consists of a number of patents that recover phosphorus and metals from ash. In Ash2Salt, fly ash is washed so that three different salts are extracted and become commercial products. In Project N, nitrogen is extracted from waste water through a chemical method and becomes fertiliser.

”We are continually working on new ideas and have several pilot studies, which we hope will become new projects. In the idea process, we start with a desk analysis which, if it is viable, becomes an expanded idea study. We then test chemically whether it works before finding lab funding and in due course upscaling,” Patrik says.