Hydrogen Generation in Microbial Reverse-Electrodialysis Electrolysis Cells Using a Heat-Regenerated Salt Solution

Joo-Youn Nam, Roland D. Cusick, Younggy Kim, Bruce E. Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Hydrogen gas can be electrochemically produced in microbial reverse-electrodialysis electrolysis cells (MRECs) using current derived from organic matter and salinity-gradient energy such as river water and seawater solutions. Here, it is shown that ammonium bicarbonate salts, which can be regenerated using low-temperature waste heat, can also produce sufficient voltage for hydrogen gas generation in an MREC. The maximum hydrogen production rate was 1.6 m3 H2/m3·d, with a hydrogen yield of 3.4 mol H2/mol acetate at a salinity ratio of infinite. Energy recovery was 10% based on total energy applied with an energy efficiency of 22% based on the consumed energy in the reactor. The cathode overpotential was dependent on the catholyte (sodium bicarbonate) concentration, but not the salinity ratio, indicating high catholyte conductivity was essential for maximizing hydrogen production rates. The direction of the HC and LC flows (co- or counter-current) did not affect performance in terms of hydrogen gas volume, production rates, or stack voltages. These results show that the MREC can be successfully operated using ammonium bicarbonate salts that can be regenerated using conventional distillation technologies and waste heat making the MREC a useful method for hydrogen gas production from wastes. © 2012 American Chemical Society.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5240-5246
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Apr 9 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): KUS-11-003-13
Acknowledgements: This study was supported by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) (Award KUS-11-003-13).
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


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