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Tracking homogeneous reactions during electrodialysis of organic acids via EIS

Martí-Calatayud, M.C., Evdochenko, E., Bär, J., García-Gabaldón, M., Wessling, M., Pérez-Herranz, V.
Journal of membrane science 2019
anion-exchange membranes, anions, byproducts, dielectric spectroscopy, dissociation, electrochemistry, electrodialysis, oxalic acid, pH, protons
Organic acids are highly valuable platform chemicals that can be obtained from bioresources and subsequently transformed into a wide spectrum of profitable consumer goods. After their synthesis, organic acids need to be separated from other by-products and conveniently upconcentrated. Based on the ionic nature of organic acids, electromembrane processes are viable technologies for their recovery. Transport of weak acids through ion-exchange membranes is a complex process influenced by multiple phenomena, i.e. concentration polarization, water dissociation and counterion-membrane interactions. In the present study, the transport of two different organic acids (citric and oxalic acid) through anion-exchange membranes is investigated by means of using linear sweep voltammetry, chronopotentiometry and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS). Results have shown that, at pH values where multivalent acid anions predominate in solution, a first limiting current density is registered in the current-voltage curves, followed by an increase in membrane resistance. A further increase in current leads to a second limiting current density and a steeper increase in membrane resistance associated with an intensified ion depletion. A strong correlation between polarization curves and electrochemical impedance measurements reveals that such increase in resistance is prompted by generation of H+ and OH− ions and the concomitant onset of homogeneous reactions in very thin solution layers. The generation of H+ and OH− ions is tracked by a Gerischer arc in the impedance spectra. As the polarization level increases, the subsequent reaction of multivalent anions into lower-charge acid anions involves the evolution of additional Gerischer arcs. Furthermore, the lower conductivity of the reaction products correlates with the increased system resistance. The characteristic times of these reactions are in the order of milliseconds, thus being only directly accessible with the use of frequency response analysis techniques, such as EIS.