Performance and lifetime of intercalative water deionization cells for mono- and divalent ion removal
Intercalative deionization (IDI) uses two cation intercalation electrodes separated by an anion exchange membrane in a symmetric cell design that has the potential to deliver electrochemically desalinated water in an energy- and water-efficient way. Here, we define and measure metrics to describe the performance and lifetime of IDI cells and compare them for NaCl and CaCl₂ feed solutions. With 20 mM NaCl, NiHCF/AEM/NiHCF flow cells achieve 10 mM average concentration change at a productivity of 20 l/h/m² and 5 mM average concentration change at 130 l/h/m². In both cases the cells are operated at a 3C current rate and consume ~30 Wh/m³ of energy. With 10 mM CaCl₂, the specific capacity and salt removal of IDI flow cells is ~4 times lower. NiHCF/NiHCF beaker cells with CaCl₂ electrolyte suffer from strong capacity fade, while the same cells with NaCl electrolyte achieve 500 cycles without any capacity fade. Our post-mortem analysis using X-ray diffraction, secondary electron microscopy, energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, synchrotron-based X-ray absorption spectroscopy and micro X-ray fluorescence mapping reveals that NiHCF dissolves upon repeated intercalation with Ca²⁺, releasing residual K⁺, Ni²⁺ and Fe(CN)₆³, which precipitates as a crystalline decomposition product on the electrodes. This side reaction deprives the active material NiHCF of charge compensating Fe, and thus accounts for the observed capacity fade.