Electrocatalytic fuel cell desalination for continuous energy and freshwater generation

Summary Advanced hydrogen technologies contribute essentially to the decarbonization of our industrialized world. Large-scale hydrogen production would benefit from using the abundantly available water reservoir of our planet’s oceans. Current seawater-desalination technologies suffer from high energy consumption, high cost, or low performance. Here, we report technology for water desalination at seawater molarity, based on a polymer ion-exchange membrane fuel cell. By continuously supplying hydrogen and oxygen to the cell, a 160-mM concentration decrease from an initial value of 600 mM is accomplished within 40 h for a 55-mL reservoir. This device’s desalination rate in 600 mM NaCl and substitute ocean water are 18 g/m2/h and 16 g/m2/h, respectively. In addition, by removing 1 g of NaCl, 67 mWh of electric energy is generated. This proof-of-concept work shows the high application potential for sustainable fuel-cell desalination (FCD) using hydrogen as an energy carrier.