We report an ion concentration polarization (CP) system that exceeds ohmic scaling, a barrier that has stood for more than four decades, by more than one order of magnitude. CP is used in many important applications, including the enrichment of trace analytes in microfluidic systems and water purification by electrodialysis. The mechanisms that control the current through these systems have been largely discovered, but the reduced currents and loss of efficiency imparted by the high resistance of the CP ion depleted zone have not been overcome. To obtain high currents, an ion permselective element with a microscale cross-section is interfaced with a macroscale reservoir. Confocal fluorescence microscopy and microparticle tracking velocimetry (μ-PTV) are used to characterize the depleted zone that emanates vertically from the CP inducing nanoporous gel into the macroscale reservoir. The shape and growth of the depleted zone and velocity in the surrounding bulk solution are consistent with natural convection being the driver of the depleted zone morphology and eliminating the high resistance created by the depleted zone in 1D and 2D systems. Once the resistance of the depleted zone is negated, the high currents are hypothesized to result from enhancement of counter-ion concentration in the nanoporous gel-filled microchannel. In contrast with conventional systems, the current increases monotonically and remains stable at a high quasi-steady level in the reported systems. These results may be used to increase the efficiency and performance of future devices that utilize CP, while the ability to collect purified water with this geometry is demonstrated.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biomedical Engineering