Reverse electrodialysis (RED) or blue energy is a non-polluting, sustainable technology for generating power from the mixing of solutions with different salinity, that is, seawater and river water. A concentrated salt solution (e.g., seawater) and a diluted salt solution (e.g., river water) are brought into contact through an alternating series of polymeric anion-exchange membranes (AEMs) and cation-exchange membranes (CEMs), which are either selective for anions or cations. Currently available ion-exchange membranes are not optimized for RED, whereas successful RED operation notably depends on the used ion-exchange membranes. We designed such ion-exchange membranes and for the first time we show the performance of tailor-made membranes in RED. More specifically, we focus on the development of AEMs because these are much more complex to prepare. Herein we propose a safe and more environmentally friendly method and use halogenated polyethers, such as polyepichlorohydrin (PECH) as the starting material. A tertiary diamine (1,4-diazabicyclo[2.2.2]octane, DABCO) was used to introduce the ion-exchange groups by amination and for simultaneous cross-linking of the polymer membrane. Area resistances of the series of membranes ranged from 0.82 to 2.05 Ω cm2 and permselectivities from 87 to 90 %. For the first time we showed that tailor-made ion-exchange membranes can be applied in RED. Depending on the properties and especially membrane thickness, application of these membranes in RED resulted in a high power density of 1.27 W m−2, which exceeds the power output obtained with the commercially available AMX membranes. This shows the potential of the design of ion-exchange membranes for a viable blue energy process.
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