Osmotic ballasts enhance faradaic efficiency in closed-loop, membrane-based energy systems


Aqueous processes for energy storage and conversion based on reverse electrodialysis (RED) require a significant concentration difference across ion exchange membranes, creating both an electrochemical potential and an osmotic pressure difference. In closed-loop RED, which we recently demonstrated as a new means of energy storage, the transport of water by osmosis has a very significant negative impact on the faradaic efficiency of the system. In this work, we use neutral, non-permeating solutes as “osmotic ballasts” in a closed-loop concentration battery based on RED. We present experimental results comparing two proof-of-concept ballast molecules, and show that the ballasts reduce, eliminate, or reverse the net transport of water through the membranes when cycling the battery. By mitigating osmosis, faradaic and round-trip energy efficiency are more than doubled, from 18% to 50%, and 7% to 15%, respectively in this non-optimized system. However, the presence of the ballasts has a slightly negative impact on the open circuit voltage. Our results suggest that balancing osmotic pressure using non-charged solutes is a promising approach for significantly reducing faradaic energy losses in closed-loop RED systems.

Environmental Science and Technology