Integrated pretreatment and desalination by electrocoagulation (EC)–ion concentration polarization (ICP) hybrid
Conventional water treatment process is composed of multiple stages, including desalination (salt removal) and pre/post-treatment of desalination to remove particles, chemicals, and other potential foulants for desalination. In this work, we developed a microfluidic proof-of-concept for a single device water treatment system, which removes both salt ions and non-salt contaminants. Our system combines electrocoagulation (EC), a versatile contaminant removal process, and ion concentration polarization (ICP) desalination, which is an electromembrane desalination process. We demonstrated a continuous EC–ICP operation that removed >95% of suspended solids and reduced the salinity from brackish range (20 mM NaCl) to a potable level (<8.6 mM NaCl). We also demonstrated that our system is flexible in terms of the type and concentration of contaminants it can handle. Combining two different electrochemical processes into a single system, we can reduce unnecessary voltage drop by having a shared anode, and achieve both seamless integration and energy efficient operation. Our system will find applications as a small-scale water treatment system, if properly scaled up in the future.