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Title: Assessing the current state of commercially available membranes and spacers for energy production with pressure retarded osmosis

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Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E)
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Grant/Contract Number:
AR0000306; 91746401-0
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Publisher's Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 389; Journal Issue: C; Related Information: CHORUS Timestamp: 2017-07-28 22:01:08; Journal ID: ISSN 0011-9164
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Citation Formats

Hickenbottom, Kerri L., Vanneste, Johan, Elimelech, Menachem, and Cath, Tzahi Y. Assessing the current state of commercially available membranes and spacers for energy production with pressure retarded osmosis. Netherlands: N. p., 2016. Web. doi:10.1016/j.desal.2015.09.029.
Hickenbottom, Kerri L., Vanneste, Johan, Elimelech, Menachem, & Cath, Tzahi Y. Assessing the current state of commercially available membranes and spacers for energy production with pressure retarded osmosis. Netherlands. doi:10.1016/j.desal.2015.09.029.
Hickenbottom, Kerri L., Vanneste, Johan, Elimelech, Menachem, and Cath, Tzahi Y. 2016. "Assessing the current state of commercially available membranes and spacers for energy production with pressure retarded osmosis". Netherlands. doi:10.1016/j.desal.2015.09.029.
title = {Assessing the current state of commercially available membranes and spacers for energy production with pressure retarded osmosis},
author = {Hickenbottom, Kerri L. and Vanneste, Johan and Elimelech, Menachem and Cath, Tzahi Y.},
abstractNote = {},
doi = {10.1016/j.desal.2015.09.029},
journal = {Desalination},
number = C,
volume = 389,
place = {Netherlands},
year = 2016,
month = 7

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
Publisher's Version of Record at 10.1016/j.desal.2015.09.029

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  • A general method was developed for estimating the volumetric energy efficiency of pressure retarded osmosis via pressure-volume analysis of a membrane process. The resulting model requires only the osmotic pressure, π, and mass fraction, w, of water in the concentrated and dilute feed solutions to estimate the maximum achievable specific energy density, uu, as a function of operating pressure. The model is independent of any membrane or module properties. This method utilizes equilibrium analysis to specify the volumetric mixing fraction of concentrated and dilute solution as a function of operating pressure, and provides results for the total volumetric energy densitymore » of similar order to more complex models for the mixing of seawater and riverwater. Within the framework of this analysis, the total volumetric energy density is maximized, for an idealized case, when the operating pressure is π/(1+√w⁻¹), which is lower than the maximum power density operating pressure, Δπ/2, derived elsewhere, and is a function of the solute osmotic pressure at a given mass fraction. It was also found that a minimum 1.45 kmol of ideal solute is required to produce 1 kWh of energy while a system operating at “maximum power density operating pressure” requires at least 2.9 kmol. Utilizing this methodology, it is possible to examine the effects of volumetric solution cost, operation of a module at various pressure, and operation of a constant pressure module with various feed.« less
  • We present a novel hybrid membrane system that operates as a heat engine capable of utilizing low-grade thermal energy, which is not readily recoverable with existing technologies. The closed-loop system combines membrane distillation (MD), which generates concentrated and pure water streams by thermal separation, and pressure retarded osmosis (PRO), which converts the energy of mixing to electricity by a hydro-turbine. The PRO-MD system was modeled by coupling the mass and energy flows between the thermal separation (MD) and power generation (PRO) stages for heat source temperatures ranging from 40 to 80 degrees C and working concentrations of 1.0, 2.0, andmore » 4.0 mol/kg NaCl. The factors controlling the energy efficiency of the heat engine were evaluated for both limited and unlimited mass and heat transfer kinetics in the thermal separation stage. In both cases, the relative flow rate between the MD permeate (distillate) and feed streams is identified as an important operation parameter. There is an optimal relative flow rate that maximizes the overall energy efficiency of the PRO-MD system for given working temperatures and concentration. In the case of unlimited mass and heat transfer kinetics, the energy efficiency of the system can be analytically determined based on thermodynamics. Our assessment indicates that the hybrid PRO-MD system can theoretically achieve an energy efficiency of 9.8% (81.6% of the Carnot efficiency) with hot and cold working temperatures of 60 and 20 degrees C, respectively, and a working solution of 1.0 M NaCl. When mass and heat transfer kinetics are limited, conditions that more closely represent actual operations, the practical energy efficiency will be lower than the theoretically achievable efficiency. In such practical operations, utilizing a higher working concentration will yield greater energy efficiency. Overall, our study demonstrates the theoretical viability of the PRO-MD system and identifies the key factors for performance optimization.« less
  • Pressure retarded osmosis (PRO) and reverse electrodialysis (RED) are emerging membrane-based technologies that can convert chemical energy in salinity gradients to useful work. The two processes have intrinsically different working principles: controlled mixing in PRO is achieved by water permeation across salt-rejecting membranes, whereas RED is driven by ion flux across charged membranes. This study compares the energy efficiency and power density performance of PRO and RED with simulated technologically available membranes for natural, anthropogenic, and engineered salinity gradients (seawater-river water, desalination brine-wastewater, and synthetic hypersaline solutions, respectively). The analysis shows that PRO can achieve both greater efficiencies (54-56%) andmore » higher power densities (2.4-38 W/m(2)) than RED (18-38% and 0.77-1.2 W/m(2)). The superior efficiency is attributed to the ability of PRO membranes to more effectively utilize the salinity difference to drive water permeation and better suppress the detrimental leakage of salts. On the other hand, the low conductivity of currently available ion exchange membranes impedes RED ion flux and, thus, constrains the power density. Both technologies exhibit a trade-off between efficiency and power density: employing more permeable but less selective membranes can enhance the power density, but undesired entropy production due to uncontrolled mixing increases and some efficiency is sacrificed. When the concentration difference is increased (i.e., natural -> anthropogenic -> engineered salinity gradients), PRO osmotic pressure difference rises proportionally but not so for RED Nernst potential, which has logarithmic dependence on the solution concentration. Because of this inherently different characteristic, RED is unable to take advantage of larger salinity gradients, whereas PRO power density is considerably enhanced. Additionally, high solution concentrations suppress the Donnan exclusion effect of the charged RED membranes, severely reducing the permselectivity and diminishing the energy conversion efficiency. This study indicates that PRO is more suitable to extract energy from a range of salinity gradients, while significant advancements in ion exchange membranes are likely necessary for RED to be competitive with PRO.« less
  • Pressure-retarded osmosis (PRO) has the potential to generate sustainable energy from salinity gradients. PRO is typically considered for operation with river water and seawater, but a far greater energy of mixing can be harnessed from hypersaline solutions. This study investigates the power density that can be obtained in PRO from such concentrated solutions. Thin-film composite membranes with an embedded woven mesh were supported by tricot fabric feed spacers in a specially designed crossflow cell to maximize the operating pressure of the system, reaching a stable applied hydraulic pressure of 48 bar (700 psi) for more than 10 h. Operation atmore » this increased hydraulic pressure allowed unprecedented power densities, up to 60 W/m(2) with a 3 M (180 g/L) NaCl draw solution. Experimental power densities demonstrate reasonable agreement with power densities modeled using measured membrane properties, indicating high-pressure operation does not drastically alter membrane performance. Our findings exhibit the promise of the generation of power from high-pressure PRO with concentrated solutions.« less