Ion transport channels in redox flow deionization enable ultra-high desalination performance

Publication Name

Nano Energy


Redox flow deionization (RFD) is an emerging derivative of redox flow cell technology that desalinizes salt water while simultaneously storing energy. However, conventional RFDs are limited by high specific energy consumption and low salt removal rates caused by low ionic conductivity in low-salinity ranges (especially < 3000 mg L–1). This study investigates the potential of ion transport channels composed of ion exchangers to enhance ionic conductivity in low-salinity ranges. The RFD cell with ion exchangers (IE-RFD) exhibited significantly lower resistance and specific energy consumption than conventional RFD cells when processing low salinity feeds. A finite element analysis demonstrated that the current density in the ion exchangers, especially where the ion exchangers were in contact, was much higher than that of the surrounding solution, indicating effective ion transport in low-salinity ranges. The IE-RFD cell showed excellent desalination performance (99.4% at 10 000 mg L–1) and low energy consumption (0.99 Wh L–1). We did not observe any deterioration in performance over 10 d of continuous desalination. Compared with other electrochemical desalination technologies, e.g., membrane capacitive deionization, flow capacitive deionization, and traditional RFD, the IE-RFD is superior in terms of energy consumption, salt removal ability, and stability. This study described an efficient strategy to enhance the desalination performance of RFDs through ion transport channels. With further optimization, this technology could help to alleviate the critical global demand for fresh water using minimal energy.

Open Access Status

This publication is not available as open access



Article Number


Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Shandong University



Link to publisher version (DOI)