Limiting current density and water dissociation in bipolar membranes

H. Strathmann, J.J. Krol, H.J. Rapp, G. Eigenberger

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The behaviour of bipolar membranes in NaCl and Na2SO4 solutions is discussed. The membranes are characterized in terms of their limiting current densities. Below the limiting current density the electric current is carried by salt ions migrating from the transition region between the anion and the cation exchange layer of the bipolar membrane. In steady state these ions are replaced by salt ions transported from the bulk solutions into the transition region by diffusion and migration due to the fact that the ion-exchange layers are not strictly permselective. When the limiting current density is exceeded, the salt transport from the transition region can no longer be compensated by the transport into the region and a drastic increase in the membrane resistance and enhanced water dissociation is observed. This water dissociation is described as being a combination of the second Wien effect and the protonation and deprotonation of functional groups in the membrane. The limiting current density is calculated from a mass balance that includes all components involved in the transport. The parameters used in the mathematical treatment are the diffusion coefficients of salt ions and water, the ion mobilities in the membrane, the fixed charge densitiy of the membrane, the pKb values of the functional groups and the solution bulk concentrations.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)123-142
JournalJournal of membrane science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1997


  • METIS-106187
  • IR-11487

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