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Microbial Capacitive Desalination Cell

University of Colorado

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Technology Marketing Summary

A research team led by Dr. Jason Ren of the University of Colorado has developed novel microbial capacitive desalination cell (MCDC) technology for sustainable desalination, renewable energy production, and wastewater treatment solution.

Description

With present day environmental and energy concerns increasing, the development of environmentally friendly energy and potable water sources are quickly becoming a top priority. Current wastewater treatment processes are energy intensive due to the power demand for aeration, sludge treatment, and membrane operations. An alternative energy source that shows great potential to meet future energy demands are microbial desalination cells or MDCs. These cells use the electrical current generated by microbes to simultaneously treat wastewater, desalinate water, and produce bioenergy. However, current MDC systems transfer salts to the treated wastewater and affect wastewater beneficial use. If MDCs could be used to treat wastewater, the energy content embedded in the organic matter contained in wastewater is estimated to be approximately 2-4 times the energy used for wastewater treatment in the US, indicating that waste treatment could be self-sufficient and possibly net energy positive. A microbial capacitive desalination cell (MCDC) was developed to address the salt migration and pH fluctuation problems facing current MDCs and improve the efficiency of capacitive deionization. The MCDC system offers a sustainable desalination, renewable energy production, and wastewater treatment solution.

 The University of Colorado research team has developed a novel microbial capacitive desalination cell (MCDC) technology, representing a marked improvement over its MDC precursor. MCDCs are able address both the salt migration and pH fluctuation problems that plague current MDCs and improve the capacitive deionization. An MCDC consists of a polycarbonate cube-shaped block compartmentalized into three sections: an anode, a cathode, and a desalination chamber in the center. The desalination chamber is separated by the anode and cathode through two specifically designed membrane assemblies, which consisted of cation exchange membranes and layers of activated carbon cloth (ACC). The MCDC desalination efficiency was 7 to 25 times higher than traditional capacitive deionization processes. Compared to MDC systems, where the volume of concentrate can be substantial, all of the removed ions in the MCDC were adsorbed in the ACC assembly double layer capacitors without migrating to the anolyte or catholyte, and the electrically adsorbed ions could be recovered during assembly regeneration. The two cation exchange membrane based assemblies allow the free transfer of protons across the system and thus prevented significant pH changes observed in traditional MDCs.

 

Benefits

A desalination process with 7 to 25 times higher efficiency than traditional processes.

Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
CU3018DPrototypeAvailable06/01/201206/01/2012

Contact CU About This Technology

To: Lola Underwood<lola.underwood@cu.edu>