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Comment Water Treatment

A new way to desalt water without using RO or distillation

By Gerald Parkinson |

Capacitive desalination, in which salt ions are electrically removed from saltwater, has been researched for decades as a potentially cheaper alternative to energy-intensive reverse osmosis (RO) and distillation, but so far its application has been limited to waters with very low salt concentrations. A new method, which may change that, is being developed by researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL, Livermore, Calif.; www.llnl.gov). In capacitive desalination, saltwater is typically pumped through a channel between two capacitor-electrodes (diagram). The electrodes remove the Na+ and Cl– ions from the saltwater by capturing them on the surface of the electrodes. LLNL has built a flow-through electrode (FTE) module that has no channel, but consists of two highly porous blocks of carbon aerogel (with negative and positive charges), divided by a thin polymer membrane. Saltwater is pumped through the entire capacitor and the ions, which can pass through the membrane, are accumulated by the appropriate electrode. Earlier experiments (in the 1990s) used aerogels with small pores and had a channel between the electrodes. This limited ion-transport times from the channel into the electrodes, says Michael Stadermann,…
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