Series Assembly of Microbial Desalination Cells Containing Stacked Electrodialysis Cells for Partial or Complete Seawater Desalination
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A microbial desalination cell (MDC) is a new approach for desalinating water based on using the electrical current generated by exoelectrogenic bacteria. Previously developed MDCs have used only one or two desalination chambers with substantial internal resistance, and used low salinity catholytes containing a buffered or acid solution. Here we show that substantially improved MDC performance can be obtained even with a nonbuffered, saline catholyte, by using an electrodialysis stack consisting of 5 pairs of desalting and concentrating cells. When 4 stacked MDCs were used in series (20 total pairs of desalination chambers), the salinity of 0.06 L of synthetic seawater (35 g/L NaCl) was reduced by 44% using 0.12 L of anode solution (2:1). The resistive loss in the electrodialysis stack was negligible due to minimization of the intermembrane distances, and therefore the power densities produced by the MDC were similar to those produced by single chamber microbial fuel cells (MFCs) lacking desalination chambers. The observed current efficiency was 86%, indicating separation of 4.3 pairs of sodium and chloride ions for every electron transferred through the circuit. With two additional stages (total of 3.8 L of anolyte), desalination was increased to 98% salt removal, producing 0.3 L of fresh water (12.6:1). These results demonstrate that stacked MDCs can be used for efficient desalination of seawater while at the same time achieving power densities comparable to those obtained in MFCs.
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