Electrosorption of organic compounds: State of the art, challenges, performance, and perspectives

The widespread contamination of water resources with emerging organic contaminants necessitates the development of sustainable and cost-effective water treatment technologies. Adsorption, as a widely used water remediation process, is hampered by severe performance limitations against ionic and hydrophilic organic contaminants. In addition, no facile on-site regeneration techniques are available. Electrosorption of organic compounds (EOC) is a promising alternative to not only improve adsorption performance, but also to facilitate adsorbent regeneration by green electricity. The number of studies on EOC has grown exponentially over the past decades. There are numerous examples showing that applied electric potentials can significantly enhance the adsorption affinity, capacity, and kinetics of conductive carbon adsorbents. However, whether these effects are specific to certain compound classes or more generally applicable remains unclear as well as the optimal criteria for designing EOC processes. Therefore, we critically evaluated the current state of the art of EOC in terms of active control of adsorption and desorption processes and the achievable effects for ionic and neutral organic compounds. Through a detailed consideration of compound speciation and surface chemistry of electrode materials, we derive mechanistic insights into the EOC process and discuss differences between electrosorption of inorganic and organic compounds. We provide definitions and propose insightful performance parameters to unify the rapidly growing EOC research. Potential application scenarios and future research directions are discussed. Overall, EOC is less likely to be a one-fits-all solution for removing contaminants, but adds a valuable tool especially for the hydrophilic and ionic organic contaminants that challenge conventional adsorption processes.