A new method for water desalination using microbial desalination cells

Xiaoxin Cao, Xia Huang, Peng Liang, Kang Xiao, Yingjun Zhou, Xiaoyuan Zhang, Bruce Ernest Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

435 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Current water desalination techniques are energy intensive and some use membranes operated at high pressures. It is shownhere that water desalination can be accomplished without electrical energy input or high water pressure by using a source of organic matter as the fuel to desalinate water. A microbial fuel cell was modified by placing two membranes between the anode and cathode, creating a middle chamber for water desalination between the membranes. An anion exchange membrane was placed adjacent to the anode, and a cation exchange membrane was positioned next to the cathode. When current was produced by bacteria on the anode, ionic species in the middle chamber were transferred into the two electrode chambers, desalinating the water in the middle chamber. Proof-of-concept experiments for this approach, using what we call a microbial desalination cell (MDC), was demonstrated using water at different initial salt concentrations (5, 20, and 35 g/L) with acetate used as the substrate for the bacteria. The MDC produced a maximum of 2 W/m2 (31 W/m3) while at the same time removing about 90% of the salt in a single desalination cycle. As the salt was removed from the middle chamber the ohmic resistance of the MDC (measured using electrochemical impedance spectroscopy) increased from 25 Ω to 970 Ω at the end of the cycle. This increased resistance was reflected by a continuous decrease in the voltage produced over the cycle. These results demonstrate for the first time the possibility for a new method for water desalination and power production that uses only a source of biodegradable organic matter and bacteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7148-7152
Number of pages5
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume43
Issue number18
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 15 2009

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Desalination
desalination
membrane
Water
Membranes
salt
bacterium
ion exchange
Bacteria
Anodes
Salts
organic matter
water
Biological materials
fuel cell
Cathodes
energy
acetate
electrode
Microbial fuel cells

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry

Cite this

Cao, Xiaoxin ; Huang, Xia ; Liang, Peng ; Xiao, Kang ; Zhou, Yingjun ; Zhang, Xiaoyuan ; Logan, Bruce Ernest. / A new method for water desalination using microbial desalination cells. In: Environmental Science and Technology. 2009 ; Vol. 43, No. 18. pp. 7148-7152.
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A new method for water desalination using microbial desalination cells. / Cao, Xiaoxin; Huang, Xia; Liang, Peng; Xiao, Kang; Zhou, Yingjun; Zhang, Xiaoyuan; Logan, Bruce Ernest.

In: Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 43, No. 18, 15.09.2009, p. 7148-7152.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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