Embedded, micro-interdigitated flow fields in high areal-loading intercalation electrodes towards seawater desalination and beyond

Vu Quoc Do, Erik R Reale, Irwin Loud, Paul G Rozzi, Haosen Tan, David Willis, Kyle C Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Faradaic deionization (FDI) is a promising technology for energy-efficient water desalination using porous electrodes containing redox-active materials. Herein, we demonstrate for the first time the capability of a symmetric FDI flow cell to produce freshwater (<17.1 mM NaCl) from concentrated brackish water (118 mM), to produce effluent near freshwater salinity (19.1 mM) from influent with seawater-level salinity (496 mM), and to reduce the salinity of hypersaline brine from 781 mM to 227 mM. These remarkable salt-removal levels were enabled by using flow-through electrodes with high areal-loading of nickel hexacyanoferrate (NiHCF) Prussian Blue analogue intercalation material. The pumping energy consumption due to flow-through electrodes was mitigated by embedding an interdigitated array of <100 μm wide channels in the electrodes using laser micromachining. The micron-scale dimensions of the resulting embedded, micro-interdigitated flow fields (eμ-IDFFs) facilitate flow-through electrodes with high apparent permeability while minimizing active-material loss. Our modeling shows that these eμ-IDFFs are more suitable for our intercalation electrodes because they have >100× lower permeability compared to common redox-flow battery electrodes, for which millimetric flow-channel widths were used exclusively in the past. Total desalination thermodynamic energy efficiency (TEE) was improved by more than ten-fold relative to unpatterned electrodes: 40.0% TEE for brackish water, 11.7% TEE for hypersaline brine, and 7.4% TEE for seawater-salinity feeds. Water transport between diluate and brine streams and charge efficiency losses resulting from (electro)chemical effects are implicated as limiting energy efficiency and water recovery, motivating their investigation for enhancing future FDI performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3025-3039
Number of pages15
JournalEnergy and Environmental Science
Issue number7
Early online dateJun 7 2023
StatePublished - Jun 7 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Chemistry


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