Renewable electricity from salinity gradients using reverse electrodialysis
Gilstrap, Matthew Coleman
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Renewable power generation from the controlled mixing of sea and fresh water is relatively unexplored when compared to the development for solar, wind, and other sustainable power alternatives. When global river discharge was taken into account, an estimated 2.6 TW of obtainable energy exists in untapped salinity gradients. Reverse electrodialysis is one proposed power-generating mechanism for harnessing energy from brackish environments and relies on the transport of aqueous salt ions through an apparatus of ion-exchange membranes. In this thesis, operational parameters, including flow direction, salinity composition, and membrane selectivity, are investigated. For optimal performance, I have employed counter-current flow mode with monovalent ion selective membranes and pure 0.5 M NaCl saline solution. The results show that a maximum open circuit voltage (OCV) level of 2.01 V is obtained with an active membrane area of 0.0756 m². The presence of multivalent ions in the feed solutions hinders OCV levels, but the effects are reduced with monovalent-selective membranes. Preliminary results are insightful; in order to increase the commercially viability of this technology, future work is needed to enhance the performance properties of the ion exchange membranes.