Strategic comparison of membrane-assisted and membrane-less water electrolyzers and their potential application in direct seawater splitting (DSS)

Abdul Malek, Xu Lu, Paul R. Shearing, Dan J.L. Brett, Guanjie He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Electrocatalytic splitting of water by means of renewable energy as the electricity supply is one of the most promising methods for storing green renewable energy as hydrogen. Although two-thirds of the earth's surface is covered with water, there is inadequacy of freshwater in most parts of the world. Hence, splitting seawater instead of freshwater could be a truly sustainable alternative. However, direct seawater splitting faces challenges because of the complex composition of seawater. The composition, and hence, the local chemistry of seawater may vary depending on its origin, and in most cases, tracking of the side reactions and standardizing and customizing the catalytic process will be an extra challenge. The corrosion of catalysts and competitive side reactions due to the presence of various inorganic and organic pollutants create challenges for developing stable electro-catalysts. Hence, seawater splitting generally involves a two-step process, i.e., purification of seawater using reverse osmosis and then subsequent fresh water splitting. However, this demands two separate chambers and larger space, and increases complexity of the reactor design. Recently, there have been efforts to directly split seawater without the reverse osmosis step. Herein, we represent the most recent innovative approaches to avoid the two-step process, and compare the potential application of membrane-assisted and membrane-less electrolyzers in direct seawater splitting (DSS). We particularly discuss the device engineering, and propose a novel electrolyzer design strategies for concentration gradient based membrane-less microfluidic electrolyzer.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalGreen Energy and Environment
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 22 2022

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