Evaluation of flow schemes for near-neutral pH electrolytes in solar-fuel generators
The electrochemical performance of three different types of membrane-containing electrolyte-flow schemes for solar-driven water splitting has been studied quantitatively using 1-dimensional and 2-dimensional multi-physics models. The three schemes include a recirculation scheme with a well-mixed bulk electrolyte, a recirculation scheme with laminar flow fields, and a fresh-feed scheme with laminar flow fields. The Nernstian potential loss associated with pH gradients at the electrode surfaces, the resistive loss between the cathode and anode, the product-gas crossovers, and the required pumping energy in all three schemes have been evaluated as a function of the operational current density, the flow rates for the electrolyte, and the physical dimensions of the devices. The trade-offs in the voltage loss, safety considerations, and energy inputs from the balance-of-systems required to produce a practical device have been evaluated and compared to membrane-free devices as well as to devices that operate at extreme pH values.