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Published November 2023 | Published
Journal Article Open

Analysis of bipolar membranes for electrochemical CO₂ capture from air and oceanwater


Carbon dioxide (CO₂) must be removed from the atmosphere to mitigate the negative effects of climate change. However, the most scalable methods for removing CO₂ from the air require heat from fossil-fuel combustion to produce pure CO₂ and continuously regenerate the sorbent. Bipolar-membrane electrodialysis (BPM-ED) is a promising technology that uses renewable electricity to dissociate water into acid and base to regenerate bicarbonate-based CO₂ capture solutions, such as those used in chemical loops of direct-air-capture (DAC) processes, and in direct-ocean capture (DOC) to promote atmospheric CO₂ drawdown via decarbonization of the shallow ocean. In this study, we develop an experimentally validated 1D model for the electrochemical regeneration of CO₂ from bicarbonate-based carbon capture solutions and seawater using BPM-ED. For DAC, our experimental and computational results demonstrate that pH swings induced by BPM water dissociation drive the formation of CO₂ at the cation-exchange layer|catholyte interface with energy-intensities of less than 150 kJ mol⁻¹. However, high rates of bubble formation increase energy intensity at current densities >100 mA cm⁻². Correspondingly, accelerating water dissociation catalysis and enacting bubble removal could enable CO₂ recovery at energy intensities <100 kJ mol⁻¹ and current densities >100 mA cm⁻². For DOC, mass transport limitations associated with low carbon concentrations in oceanwater suggest that DOC is best suited for clean production of acid and base usable in downstream processes. These results provide design principles for industrial-scale CO₂ recovery using BPM-ED.

Copyright and License

© The Royal Society of Chemistry 2023.


This material is based on work performed within the Liquid Sunlight Alliance, which is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Fuels from Sunlight Hub under Award Number DE-SC0021266. JCB would like to acknowledge support from the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (NDSEG) supported by the Army Research Office (ARO) under contract FA9550-21-F-0003. The authors would also like to acknowledge Prof. Shane Ardo for helpful discussions regarding the effect of the electric field on the (bi)carbonate anions.

Conflict of Interest

Three of the authors, Éowyn Lucas, Harry A. Atwater and CX Xiang, are stockholders of the company Captura Corporation, which has taken an option to license intellectual property from Caltech related to direct ocean capture with bipolar membranes.


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Additional details

December 12, 2023
December 12, 2023