High-performance ion removal via zinc–air desalination

Electrochemical processes enable a new generation of energy-efficient desalination technologies. While ion electrosorption via capacitive deionization is only suitable for brackish water with low molar strength, the use of Faradaic materials capable of reversible ion intercalation or conversion reactions allows energy-efficient removal of ions from seawater. However, the limited charge transfer/storage capacity of Faradaic materials indicates an upper limit for their desalination applications. Therefore, a new electrochemical concept must be explored to exceed the current state-of-the-art results and to push the desalination capacity beyond 100–200 mgNaCl/gelectrode. In this proof-of-concept work, we introduce the new concept of using metal–air battery technology for desalination. We do so by presenting performance data for zinc–air desalination (ZAD) in 600 mM NaCl. The ZAD cell provides a desalination capacity of 0.9–1.0 mgNaCl/cm2 (normalized to the membrane area; corresponding to 1300 mgNaCl/gZn) with a charge efficiency of 70% when charging/discharging the cell at 1 mA/cm2. The energy consumption of ZAD is 68–92 kJ/mol.