One-Stack Electrodialysis


Electrodialysis (ED) is a promising technology for desalinating brackish waters and has been deployed at industrial scales [1]. It utilizes electrical potential to drive ion diffusion through anion and cation exchange membranes, resulting in the dilution of the feed stream while producing a concentrated brine. A single ED stack is an assembly of multiple flow-by cells separated by alternating cation and anion exchange membranes positioned between a pair of electrodes. When a voltage is applied, ions in the cell pair are driven from one channel (forming the diluate channel) to the other (forming the concentrate channel), thereby desalinating water. A one-stack ED desalination system represents a basic ED operation from which more complicated or larger-scale systems can be derived. Analyzing a one-stack ED system therefore provides valuable information on the technology’s performance and cost-effectiveness for a given treatment task.

Equal flow conditions through the diluate and concentrate channels would result in a product water recovery of 50%. This flowsheet simulates the simplest setup of a one-stack ED system without any fluid recirculation, i.e., the ED stack being operated in an in-and-out single direction flow mode. This flowsheet also does not take account of the frictional pressure drop in the channel so no pump is included. A more complicated ED flowsheet is presented as


The modeled one-stack ED system is illustrated by Figure 1. The feed solution is split into two fluids through a separator unit, entering the diluate and concentrate channels of the ED stack. On the outlet side of the ED stack, all diluate fluids are collected into the total product water, and the concentrate fluids into the total brine stream. Water recovery in this model is volume-based, i.e., the ratio of product volume to total volume of feed solution. The model simulates the steady state of the ED system. The flowsheet relies on the following key assumptions:

  • supports steady-state only

  • a property package (i.e., MCAS) is provided for all unit models


Figure 1. Flowsheet diagram: one-stack ED system

The electrodialysis 1D block is set up with the following configuration arguments:

m.fs.EDstack = Electrodialysis1D(,

These configurations enable the electrodialysis unit to use a flowsheet-unified property package, set a constant stack voltage, and adopt a favorable number of finite elements for 1-dimensional simulation and solving.

In the given optimization case, the objective function is to minimize the levelized cost of water, which can be represented by the following equation where \(Q\) represents volumetric flow, \(f_{crf}\) represents capital recovery factor \(C_{cap,tot}\) represents total capital cost, \(C_{op,tot}\) represents total operating cost, and \(f_{util}\) represents the utilization factor:

\[LCOW_{Q} = \frac{f_{crf} C_{cap,tot} + C_{op,tot}}{f_{util} Q}\]

The product water salinity is set to 1 \(g L^{-1}\) (from a feed salinity of 9.9 \(g L^{-1}\)).

Documentation for unit models from WaterTAP:
Documentation for unit models from IDAES:
Documentation for the property model:

Degrees of Freedom

The number of degrees of freedom (DOF) is associated with the number of fixed variables (parameters) determined by the purpose of the modeling case. We implemented two modeling cases in this flowsheet: (1) the prediction of desalination outcome (salinity of the product water and saline disposal) and (2) the optimization of key decision variables in system design. In the first case, DOF is set to zero by fixing all initial conditions of the feed solution fluid and definite ED stack parameters. All fixed values are presented in the section to follow. In the second case, the values of those chosen to be the decision variables in the optimization are unfixed. The DOF number is therefore the number of decision variables. In this example, the decision variables are

  • stack voltage applied

  • ED cell pair number

Flowsheet Specifications





Salinity (NaCl)


\(g L^{-1}\)

Volume flow rate

\(8.7 \times 10^{-5}\)

\(m^3 s^{-1}\)








Na^+ diffusivity

\(1.33 \times 10^{-9}\)

\(m^2 s^{-1}\)


Cl^- diffusivity

\(2.03 \times 10^{-9}\)

\(m^2 s^{-1}\)


NaCl mass diffusivity

\(1.60 \times 10^{-9}\)

\(m^2 s^{-1}\)


Cell pair number



Cell length



Cell width




Channel height

\(2.7 \times 10^{-4}\)


Stack voltage



Thickness, aem and cem

\(1.3 \times 10^{-5}\)



Areal resistance, aem

\(1.77 \times 10^{-4}\)

\(\Omega m^2\)


Areal resistance, cem

\(1.89 \times 10^{-4}\)

\(\Omega m^2\)


Water permeability, aem

\(1.75 \times 10^{-14}\)

\(m s^{-1} Pa^{-1}\)


Water permeability, cem

\(2.16 \times 10^{-14}\)

\(m s^{-1} Pa^{-1}\)


Water transport number, aem




Water transport number, cem




NaCl mass diffusivity, aem

\(1.25 \times 10^{-10}\)

\(m^2 s^{-1}\)


NaCl mass diffusivity, cem

\(1.8 \times 10^{-10}\)

\(m^2 s^{-1}\)


Spacer Porosity




Pump efficiency