Civil Engineering ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 3-29-2018


Microbial desalination cell (MDC) is a bioelectrochemical system capable of oxidizing organics, generating electricity and reducing the salinity content into the desalination chamber. In the first part of this study, quaternary ammonium poly(2,6-dimethyl 1,4-phenylene oxide) (QAPPO) anion exchange membranes (AEMs) with topographically patterned surfaces were assessed in a microbial desalination cell (MDC) system. The MDC results with these QAPPO AEMs were benchmarked against a commercially available AEM. The MDC with the non-patterned QAPPO AEM (Q1) displayed the best desalination rate (a reduction of salinity by 53±3 %) and power generation (189±5 mW m-2) when compared against the commercially available AEM and the patterned AEMs. The enhanced performance with the Q1 AEM was attributed to its higher ionic conductivity and smaller thickness leading to a reduced area specific resistance. The non-patterned QAPPO AEM displayed better performance over the patterned QAPPO AEMs. In the second part of this study, sulfonated sodium (Na+) poly(ether ketone) (SPEEK) cation exchange membranes (CEMs) were tested in combination with quaternary ammonium chloride poly(2,6-dimethyl 1,4-phenylene oxide) (QAPPO) anion exchange membrane (AEM). Non-patterned and patterned (with increased, lateral different topographical features) CEMs were investigated and assessed in this work. The results were also contrasted against a commercially available CEM. The results for QAPPO/SPEEK displayed a higher desalination rate and power generation than commercial membranes, with a maximum of 78.6±2 % in salinity reduction and 235±7 mW m-2 in power generation for the MDCs with a non-patterned (i.e., flat) CEM. Desalination rate and power generation achieved were higher with synthesized SPEEK membranes when compared with an available commercial CEM.


microbial desalination cell, desalination, power electricity, anion exchange membranes, cation exchange membranes

Document Type




Degree Name

Civil Engineering

Level of Degree


Department Name

Civil Engineering

First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Jose Manuel Cerrato

Second Committee Member

Dr. Plamen Atanassov

Third Committee Member

Dr. Andrew Schuler

Fourth Committee Member

Dr. Carlo Santoro