Unravelling pH Changes in Electrochemical Desalination with Capacitive Deionization

Antony C. Arulrajan, Jouke E. Dykstra*, Albert Van Der Wal, Slawomir Porada*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Membrane capacitive deionization (MCDI) is a water desalination technology employing porous electrodes and ion-exchange membranes. The electrodes are cyclically charged to adsorb ions and discharged to desorb ions. During MCDI operation, a difference in pH between feed and effluent water is observed, changing over time, which can cause the precipitation of hardness ions and consequently affect the long-term stability of electrodes and membranes. These changes can be attributed to different phenomena, which can be divided into two distinct categories: Faradaic and non-Faradaic. In the present work, we show that during long-term operation, as the electrodes age over time, the magnitude and direction of pH changes shift. We studied these changes for two different feed water solutions: a NaCl solution and a tap water solution. Whereas we observe a pH decrease during the regeneration with a NaCl solution, we observe an increase during regeneration with tap water, potentially resulting in the precipitation of hardness ions. We compare our experimental findings with theory and conclude that with aged electrodes, non-Faradaic processes are the prominent cause of pH changes. Furthermore, we find that for desalination with tap water, the adsorption and desorption of HCO3-and CO32- ions affect the pH changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14165–14172
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sep 2021


  • amphoteric ions
  • Faradaic reactions
  • membrane capacitive deionization
  • non-Faradaic processes
  • pH changes


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