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  1. Plasma protein therapies are used by millions of people across the globe to treat a litany of diseases and serious medical conditions. One challenge in the manufacture of plasma protein therapies is the removal of salt ions (e.g., sodium, phosphate, and chloride) from the protein solution. The conventional approach to remove salt ions is the use of diafiltration membranes (e.g., tangential flow filtration) and ion-exchange chromatography. However, the ion-exchange resins within the chromatographic column as well as filtration membranes are subject to fouling by the plasma protein. In this work, we investigate the membrane capacitive deionization (MCDI) as an alternative separation platform for removing ions from plasma protein solutions with negligible protein loss. MCDI has been previously deployed for brackish water desalination, nutrient recovery, mineral recovery, and removal of pollutants from water. However, this is the first time this technique has been applied for removing 28% of ions (sodium, chloride, and phosphate) from human serum albumin solutions with less than 3% protein loss from the process stream. Furthermore, the MCDI experiments utilized highly conductive poly(phenylene alkylene)- based ion exchange membranes (IEMs). These IEMs combined with ionomer-coated nylon meshes in the spacer channel ameliorate Ohmic resistances in MCDI improving the energy efficiency. Overall, we envision MCDI as an effective separation platform in biopharmaceutical manufacturing for deionizing plasma protein solutions and other pharmaceutical formulations without a loss of active pharmaceutical ingredients. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 23, 2025
  2. The capstone chemical engineering senior process design course at Penn State in spring 2023 tasked students with designing a caustic soda process to partially meet the global demand for commoditized sodium hydroxide. This article disseminates our experience teaching senior chemical engineering students the core tenets of electrochemical engineering in a single class period for designing an electrolytic caustic soda process. In this E-Chem Education article, we relate key concepts found in chemical engineering (such as sizing up a reactor volume), which chemical engineering seniors are adept with, to electrochemical engineering principles (e.g., current density, voltage, and membrane electrode assembly area) for sizing up and costing out a chlor-alkali electrolyzer. Furthermore, we also discuss alternative electrolyzer designs outside the traditional chlor-alkali process, such as oxygen depolarized cathode (ODC) chlor-alkali and bipolar membrane electrodialysis (BPMED), for caustic soda production and the pros and cons of the alternative process designs.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024
  3. The case for making Electrochemical Science and Engineering part of the core chemical engineering curriculum 
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  4. This work reveals how electrode binders affect reaction kinetics, ionic conductivity, and gas transport in electrochemical hydrogen pumps (EHPs). Using a blend of phosphonic acid and perfluorosulfonic acid ionomers as the electrode binder, an EHP was operated at 5 A cm−2.

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  5. null (Ed.)
    The palette of applications for bipolar membranes (BPMs) has expanded recently beyond electrodialysis as they are now being considered for fuel cell and electrolysis applications. Their deployment in emerging electrochemical technologies arises from the need to have a membrane separator that provides disparate pH environments and to prevent species crossover. Most materials research for BPMs has focused on water dissociation catalysts and less emphasis has been given to the design of the polycation–polyanion interface for improving BPM performance. Here, soft lithography fabricated a series of micropatterned BPMs with precise control over the interfacial area in the bipolar junction. Polarization experiments showed that a 2.28× increase in interfacial area led to a 250 mV reduction in the onset potential. Additionally, the same increase in interfacial area yielded marginal improvements in current density due to the junction region being under kinetics-diffusion control. A simple physics model based on the electric field of the junction region rationalized the reduction in the overpotential for water dissociation as a function of interfacial area. Finally, the soft lithography approach was also conducive for fabricating BPMs with different chemistries ranging from perfluorinated polymer backbones to alkaline stable poly(arylene) hydrocarbon polymers. These polymer chemistries are better suited for fuel cell and electrolysis applications. The BPM featuring the alkaline stable poly(terphenyl) anion exchange membrane had an onset potential of 0.84 V, which was near the thermodynamic limit, and was about 150 mV lower than a commercially available variant. 
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  6. Electrochemical separation processes are undergoing a renaissance as the range of applications continues to expand because they offer opportunities for increased energy efficiency and sustainability in comparison to conventional separation technologies. Existing platforms such as electrodialysis and electrodeionization (EDI) are seeing significant improvement and are currently being deployed for treating a diverse set of liquid streams ( e.g. , water and wastewater treatment, organic acid separation, etc. ). In addition, the relatively low inherent electricity requirement for electrochemical separations could potentially be satisfied through integration with sustainable sources of renewable energy. In order to achieve a truly sustainable electrochemical separations process, it is paramount to improve the energy efficiency of electrochemical separations by minimizing all sources of resistances within these units. This work reports of a new class of symmetric and asymmetric Janus bipolar resin wafers (RWs) that augment the spacer channel ionic conductivity in EDI while having the additional functionality of splitting water into protons and hydroxide ions. The latter attribute is important in niche applications that require pH modulation such as silica and organic acid removal from liquid streams. The Janus bipolar RWs were devised from single ion-conducting RWs that were interfaced together to create an intimate polycation–polyanion junction. Interestingly, the conductivity of the single ion-conducting RWs at low salt concentrations was observed to be dependent on the ionic mobilities of the counterions that the RW was transferring. Using single ion-conducting RWs to construct Janus bipolar RWs enabled the incorporation of a water-splitting catalyst (aluminum hydroxide nanoparticles) into the porous ion-exchange resin bed. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time a water dissociation catalyst has been implemented in the ion-exchange resin bed for EDI. The water dissociation catalyst in bipolar junctions pre-polarizes water making it easier to split into hydronium and hydroxide ion charge carriers under applied electric fields via the second Wien effect. The new molecularly layered Janus RWs demonstrate both satisfactory water-splitting and salt removal in bench scale EDI setups and these materials may improve, or even supplant, existing bipolar membrane electrodialysis units that currently necessitate large electrolyte feed concentrations. 
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