Carbon flow electrodes for continuous operation of capacitive deionization and capacitive mixing energy generation†
Capacitive technologies, such as capacitive deionization and energy harvesting based on mixing energy (“capmix” and “CO2 energy”), are characterized by intermittent operation: phases of ion electrosorption from the water are followed by system regeneration. From a system application point of view, continuous operation has many advantages, to optimize performance, to simplify system operation, and ultimately to lower costs. In our study, we investigate as a step towards second generation capacitive technologies the potential of continuous operation of capacitive deionization and energy harvesting devices, enabled by carbon flow electrodes using a suspension based on conventional activated carbon powders. We show how the water residence time and mass loading of carbon in the suspension influence system performance. The efficiency and kinetics of the continuous salt removal process can be improved by optimizing device operation, without using less common or highly elaborate novel materials. We demonstrate, for the first time, continuous energy generation via capacitive mixing technology using differences in water salinity, and differences in gas phase CO2 concentration. Using a novel design of cylindrical ion exchange membranes serving as flow channels, we continuously extract energy from available concentration differences that otherwise would remain unused. These results may contribute to establishing a sustainable energy strategy when implementing energy extraction for sources such as CO2-emissions from power plants based on fossil fuels.