Theoretical analysis of constant voltage mode membrane capacitive deionization for water softening

Xin Zhang, Danny Reible

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Water softening is desirable to reduce scaling in water infrastructure and to meet industrial water quality needs and consumer preferences. Membrane capacitive deionization (MCDI) can preferentially adsorb divalent ions including calcium and magnesium and thus may be an attractive water softening technology. In this work, a process model incorporating ion exclusion effects was applied to investigate water softening performance including ion selectivity, ion removal efficiency and energy consumption in a constant voltage (CV) mode MCDI. Trade-offs between the simulated Ca2+ selectivity and Ca2+ removal efficiency under varying applied voltage and varying initial concentration ratio of Na+ to Ca2+ were observed. A cut-off CV mode, which was operated to maximize Ca2+ removal efficiency per cycle, was found to lead to a specific energy consumption (SEC) of 0.061 kWh/mole removed Ca2+ for partially softening industrial water and 0.077 kWh/m3 removed Ca2+ for slightly softening tap water at a water recovery of 0.5. This is an order of magnitude less than reported values for other softening techniques. MCDI should be explored more fully as an energy efficient means of water softening.

Original languageEnglish
Article number231
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Membrane capacitive deionization (MCDI)
  • Selectivity
  • Specific energy consumption (SEC)
  • Water recovery
  • Water softening


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