Electrodialysis (ED) is a membrane process used to transport salt ions from one solution to another. Ions are transported through semi permeable membrane, under the influence of an electric potential.
Electrodialysis units contain alternatively arranged anion exchange membranes. By placing multiple membranes in a row, which alternately allow positively or negatively charged ions to flow through, the ions can be removed from wastewater.
In some columns concentration of ions will take place and in other columns ions will be removed. The concentrated saltwater flow is circulated until it has reached a value that enables precipitation. At this point the flow is discharged.
This technique can be applied to remove ions from water. Particles that do not carry an electrical charge are not removed. Cation-selective membranes consist of sulphonated polystyrene, while anion-selective membranes consist of polystyrene with quaternary ammonia. Sometimes pre-treatment is necessary before the electro dialysis can take place. Suspended solids with a diameter that exceeds 10 µm need to be removed, or else they will plug the membrane pores. There are also substances that are able to neutralize a membrane, such as large organic anions, colloids, iron oxides and manganese oxide. These disturb the selective effect of the membrane.
Pre-treatment methods, which aid the prevention of these effects are active carbon filtration (for organic matter), flocculation (for colloids) and filtration techniques.