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A Method to deionize water and to recover the salt


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Electrodialysis is used to transport salt from one solution, the diluate, to another solution (concentrate) by applying an electric current. This is done in an electrodialysis cell providing all necessary elements for this process. The conentrate and diluate are separated by the membranes, as shown in the figure below. An electric current is applied, moving the salt over the membranes.


  • Desalination of salt water
  • Stabilisation of wine
  • Whey demineralisation
  • Pharmaceutical application
  • Pickling bath recycling
  • Electrodialysis Modules:

    ED process flow: Concentrate 
(right) and Diluate (left) 
is flowing through the 
electrodialysis cell

    Electrodialysis Cells
    Laboratory size (up to 1 sqm)
    PCCell ED 64 0 02
    PCCell ED 64 0 04
    PCCell ED 200
    Small industrial size (from 1 sqm- 20 sqm)
    PCCell ED 1000
    Electrodialysis Tools and Equipment
    Bench scale ED pump system
    PCCell B-ED 1-2
    PCCell B-ED 1-3


    Inside an electrodialysis unit, the solutions are separated by alternately arranged anion exchange membranes, permeable only for anions and cation exchange membranes, permeable only for cations. By this, the two kinds of compartments are formed, distinguishing in the membrane type facing the cathode's direction. Applying a current, cations within the diluate (blue compartment set) move toward the cathode passing the cation exchange membrane facing this side and anions move towards the anode passing the anion exchange membrane. A further transport of these ions, now being in a chamber of the concentrate (red compartments), is stopped by the respective next membrane:


    Electrodialysis Stack Construction


    Laboratory ED-Cell


    An electrodialysis cell (left an ED 1000H with 5 mē acitve membrane area) consists of two electrode-end blocks (PP, grey) and the membranes stacked between them. The end blocks contain the in- and outlet adapters and the electrical connections. They are pressed together by a steel frame.

    The membrane stack, consisting of alternately arranged membranes and spacers is located between the plastic end plates. In this picture, the membranes are dark and the spacers white, resulting in the lamellar structure.


    The general construction principle of an electrodialysis cell is shown in the following sketch:

    The membranes are separated by spacers (5) consisting of a fabric in the active area filled with the electrolyte combined with a sealing around it. The spacer net prevents the membranes from touching each other. The stacked spacers form with their holes tubes, which are arranged in a way to build two different channel systems. By this way, the concentrate and diluate circuit is built.

    1: Polypropylene end plate 8: Inlet anode cell
    2: Electrode 9: Inlet concentrate cell
    3: Electrode chamber 10: cation exchange membrane
    4: spacer-sealing PVC 11: AAM
    5: Spacer fabric 12: Inlet diluate cell
    6: Screws 13: Inlet cathode chamber
    7: Steel frame  

    The cells differ in the size of used membranes, the shape and thickness: An ED 64 has a square basis of 11 x 11 cm with an active membrane window of 8 x 8 cm (the rest covered by sealing (4) and inlet/outlet areas). Other common sizes are summarised in the datasheet .

    Shape and length of the cells are process determining as shown below . Thin spacers are good for desalination applications (low energy consumption for low target conductivities) and thick spacers are well suited for applications with higher turbidity and higher concentration of the feed solution.


    Application of Electrodialysis


    Electrodialysis makes it possible to transport ionic compounds from one solution to another. Therefore, its application covers the transfer of salts and acids from one solution to another. One common example is sea water desalination.

    Not only salt solutions can be desalted and concentrated, but also acids. Examples illustrating this important application field are given in the recovery of pickling acid (German) and the recycling of rinsing solution (German) from the hot dip galvanizing (English review )

    One important feature of electrodialysis is the capability to desalinate non-charged solutions, e.g. sugar solutions. As non-charged molecules are not transported, salt can be selectively removed. One example is the removement of e.g. NaI from an reactand solution or the desalination of polyalcohol-water mixtures.

    Finally, membrane properties determine the process results: Beside the permselectivity (current efficiency), mainly water transfer (EOP, electroosmotic cotranfer) and ionic selectivities (preference of e.g. monovalent ions against divalent ions) determine the results. Using those effects, also lime containing water can be concentrated without relevant scaling problems.

    Different Types of ED Processes
    Electrodialyse-pilot unit

    The electrodialysis process takes place inside the cell (stack). The solutions are circulated through the cells from a storage vessel. Each circuit needs a pump, a storage vessel and piping. By passing the stack one time, the solution is usually not finally treated (desalted from the initial value to the target value). The solution needs to pass the stack several times.

    Schematic view of a laboratory electrodialysis setup

    The simplest case, a batch desalination process, is carried out by circulating the solution through the stack until the conductivity of the tank solution has its target conductivity. As a result, the power consumption rises also within the process because the voltage drop over the cell increases.

    ED process flow: Concentrate 
(right) and Diluate (left) 
is flowing through the 
electrodialysis cellElectrodialysis process flow:
In the batch mode, a solution 
is worked from 'down' from the 
initial composition to the 
target composition.

    It is also possible to run an ED process continuously (see Figure above) or in the feed and bleed mode. Both process schemes are shown below. To decide whether a batch or a continuous process should be performed, the stack design has to be taken into account. To run in a continuous mode, the module has to treat the solution in one go. Because you need a certain time and a certain velocity of solution, this corresponds with a certain process length.

    Electrodialysis flow scheme: the feed and bleed mode

    Process Conditions of an Electrodialysis Process

    A running ED process means that the ions within the cell are moved over the membrane which determines what type of ion is blocked and what is transferred (see for more details: Transport in Ionenaustauschermembranen (DE) ). This key process has to be hold up by all the other tools around the membrane: the stack, the feed flow, the current and the temperature.

    One important effect is the polarization of the ions on the membrane surface: Within the solution, all ions move in the extent of their concentration and mobility. On the membrane's surface, both mobiltiy and concentration change dramatically. This means that there is a boundary layer of ions depletion or concentration. An important point is ionic depletion, which has to be prevented because it leads to a high ohms resistance and to water splitting and it may burn the membranes.


    Application Examples


    Figure 3 shows an example of a batch desalination (conductivity of diluate against time). The effect of a single pass desalination at the start and stop time result in a conductivity jump. It depends on the current, flowing and other factors. The plot shows, that it is - more ore less - proportional to the current.

    A batch desalination 
of aqueous NaCl, 
about 14 l / m2.

    The next diagram shows the salt (calculated as NaCl) removal in dependence of the current at theoretical current efficiency (ce) and at 85% ce. With the PCCell ED 200 you can expect for sodium chloride ce's in the range between 90 and 95 %. It depends on current denity, concentration and other factors. The amount is given per cell pair. A 25 cell pair- unit will make 25 times of this.

    Transport rate of one ED cell pair in dependence of the Amperage zum Seitenanfang