Renewable energy can be generated from mixing salt water and fresh water in reverse electrodialysis. The potential for energy generation from mixing seawater and river water is enormous. To investigate the effect of fouling when such natural feed waters are used, the performance of three different setups for reverse electrodialysis was evaluated for 25 days using seawater and river water as feed water, with no other (pre-)treatment than a 20 μm filter. Due to the absence of other anti-fouling treatments, a mixture of fouling is observed on the membranes, composed of remnants of diatoms, clay minerals, organic fouling and scaling. The fouling type was dependent on the different membrane types. The anion exchange membranes attract mainly diatoms and clay minerals, whereas scaling was only found on the cation exchange membranes. As a reference, plastic sheets without charge were used, which results in significant cleaner surfaces. Additionally, the setups without spacers in between the membranes (i.e. profiled membranes) appear significant less sensitive to fouling. This was quantified by the pressure drop over the feed waters and the power density obtained from the membrane piles. The pressure drop increases four times slower and the power density remains higher when profiled membranes are use instead of flat membranes with spacers. Although the obtained power density reduced with approximately 40% in the first day under these conditions, caused by organic fouling, several strategies are available to maintain a high power output using reverse electrodialysis
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