In brief:
In the field of electrochemical techniques, researchers have made significant progress in Redox Flow Desalination (RFD), which can convert saltwater into drinkable water and store reasonably priced renewable energy.

Redox Flow Desalination (RFD) is a novel electrochemical process that NYU Tandon School of Engineering researchers have developed. It can convert saltwater into drinkable water and store reasonably priced renewable energy.

The NYU Tandon team, under the direction of Dr. André Taylor, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and director of DC-MUSE (Decarbonizing Chemical Manufacturing Using Sustainable Electrification), increased the salt removal rate of the RFD system by about 20 percent while lowering its energy demand through fluid flow rate optimization. Their findings were published in a paper published in Cell Reports Physical Science.

RFD has several advantages. These systems offer an adaptable and scalable method of energy storage, making it possible to make effective use of sporadic renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.

Additionally, RFD promises a completely novel approach to the world’s water crisis.

“By seamlessly integrating energy storage and desalination, our vision is to create a sustainable and efficient solution that not only meets the growing demand for freshwater but also champions environmental conservation and renewable energy integration,” said Taylor.

RFD can facilitate the shift to a carbon-neutral and environmentally benign water desalination technology while simultaneously lowering dependency on traditional power networks.

Redox flow batteries and desalination technologies also work together to improve system dependability and efficiency.

Redox flow batteries’ innate capacity to store extra energy during times of abundance and release it during times of peak demand is in perfect harmony with the varying energy needs of desalination procedures.

“The success of this project is attributed to the ingenuity and perseverance of Stephen Akwei Maclean, the paper’s first author and a NYU Tandon Ph.D. candidate in chemical and biomolecular engineering,” said Taylor.

“He demonstrated exceptional skill by designing the system architecture using advanced 3D printing technology available at the NYU Maker Space.”

The salinating stream (see image above, CH 2) and the desalinating stream (see image above, CH 3) are the two streams into which incoming seawater is divided. This is one of the complex aspects of the system. The electrolyte and redox molecule are housed in two extra channels (Image above, A). An anion exchange membrane (AEM) or cation exchange membrane (CEM) efficiently divides these channels.

In CH 4, the redox molecule receives electrons from the cathode, which is used to remove Na+ that diffuses from CH 3. After that, the redox molecule and Na+ are moved to CH 4, where the redox molecules supply the anode with electrons and the Na+ is permitted to diffuse into CH 2. This overall potential causes Cl-ions to go from CH 3 via the AEM to CH 2. creating the stream of concentrated brine.

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Consequently, the freshwater stream is produced by CH 3.

“We can control the incoming seawater residence time to produce drinkable water by operating the system in a single pass or batch mode,” said Maclean.

The chemical energy that has been stored can be transformed into renewable power in the opposite process, which involves mixing freshwater and brine.

RFD systems can essentially act as a special kind of “battery,” storing extra energy from wind and solar power sources.

When needed, this stored energy can be released to provide other electricity sources a flexible and sustainable boost.

The RFD system’s dual functionality demonstrates its potential as an inventive addition to renewable energy solutions in addition to its desalination capabilities.

The NYU Tandon team’s findings indicate a possible path towards a more affordable RFD procedure, even if further research is necessary. This is a crucial development in the worldwide effort to provide more drinkable water.

More areas are experiencing water scarcity due to climate change and population growth, which emphasizes the need for creative and effective desalination techniques.

The goal of DC-MUSE (Decarbonizing Chemical Manufacturing Using Sustainable Electrification), a cooperative project founded at NYU Tandon, is perfectly aligned with this research.

DC-MUSE is dedicated to furthering research endeavors that mitigate the ecological consequences of chemical reactions by means of renewable energy.

With a focus on storing sustainably produced energy for use during off-peak hours, the current study expands on Taylor’s broad body of work in renewable energy.

The hardworking group of NYU Tandon researchers who contributed to this project, in addition to Taylor and Maclean, includes Syed Raza, Hang Wang, Chiamaka Igbomezie, Jamin Liu, Nathan Makowski, Yuanyuan Ma, Yaxin Shen, and Jason A. Röhrl. Guo-Ming Weng from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China was another vital team member who collaborated across boundaries.

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