Microbial Electrodialysis Cell for Simultaneous Water Desalination and Hydrogen Gas Production

Maha Mehanna, Patrick D. Kiely, Douglas F. Call, Bruce. E. Logan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

192 Scopus citations


A new approach to water desalination is to use exoelectrogenic bacteria to generate electrical power from the biodegradation of organic matter, moving charged ions from a middle chamber between two membranes in a type of microbial fuel cell called a microbial desalination cell. Desalination efficiency using this approach is limited by the voltage produced by the bacteria. Here we examine an alternative strategy based on boosting the voltage produced by the bacteria to achieve hydrogen gas evolution from the cathode using a three-chambered system we refer to as a microbial electrodialysis cell (MEDC). We examined the use of the MEDC process using two different initial NaCl concentrations of 5 g/L and 20 g/L. Conductivity in the desalination chamber was reduced by up to 68 ± 3% in a single fed-batch cycle, with electrical energy efficiencies reaching 231 ± 59%, and maximum hydrogen production rates of 0.16 ± 0.05 m3 H2/m3 d obtained at an applied voltage of 0.55 V. The advantage of this system compared to a microbial fuel cell approach is that the potentials between the electrodes can be better controlled, and the hydrogen gas that is produced can be used to recover energy to make the desalination process self-sustaining with respect to electrical power requirements. © 2010 American Chemical Society.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9578-9583
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 15 2010
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): KUS-I1-003-13
Acknowledgements: This research was supported by Award KUS-I1-003-13 from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (D.F.C.), and the National Water Research Institute Ronald B. Linsky Fellowship (D.F.C.).
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


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