Comparing energy efficiency of capacitive deionization and reverse osmosis

The research article 'Comparison of energy consumption in desalination by capacitive deionization and reverse osmosis' has been published in Elsevier journal Desalination (Volume 455, 1 April 2019, Pages 100-114).


Capacitive deionization (CDI), which is based on the electrosorption of ions by porous electrodes, is an emerging technology for brackish water desalination. Understanding the key drivers of energy consumption in CDI and benchmarking CDI with reverse osmosis (RO), the current state-of-the-art for brackish and seawater desalination, is crucial to guide the future development of desalination technologies. In this study, we develop system-scale models to analyze the energy consumption and energy efficiency of CDI and RO over a wide range of material properties and operating conditions. Using our models, we explore how the energetic performance of CDI and RO compare as a function of feed salinity, water recovery, salt rejection, and average water flux, which is normalized by electrode and membrane area in CDI and RO, respectively. Our analysis shows that RO is significantly more energy efficient than CDI, particularly when targeting higher salinity feed streams and higher salt rejection values. For brackish water with a salt concentration of 2000 mg L−1, achieving 50% water recovery and 75% salt rejection, with an average water flux of 10 L m−2 h−1using CDI requires a specific energy consumption of 0.85 kWh m−3, more than eight times that of RO (0.09 kWh m−3). Importantly, our results also indicate that current efforts to improve electrode materials can only marginally reduce the energy consumption of CDI. We conclude with a discussion highlighting other important factors, such as capital cost, electrode stability, and membrane fouling, which affect the efficacy of CDI and RO for low-salinity desalination.

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