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Electrodialysis Using Ion Exchange Membranes

Electrodialysis Using Ion Exchange Membranes

AGC Inc.

Ion Exchange Membrane for Electrodialysis:  Purifying Water

Issues surrounding water have increasingly become serious worldwide caused by drought and other meteorological phenomena as well as rise in salt content in groundwater. However, securing good quality water is important from the perspective of people's health and sanitation.

AGC Inc. has developed the ion exchange membrane SELEMION™, a FORBLUE™ family product, for electrodialysis. Electrodialysis can separate organic materials from salt efficiently because it only permits ionic materials to pass through the ion exchange membrane. Although electrodialysis process is already widely utilized in food industries, AGC Inc. succeded to apply and develop the essence of electrodialysis for water purification.

Essentially, the technology provides desalination and nitrate removal from groundwater for generating drinking water. It’s ideal for use in places where water resources depend on limited groundwater. It can be applied to increase supply of drinking water in areas with insufficient power infrastructure.

Major Features and Advantages

I. High Water Reuse Ratio
The water reuse ratio of the electrodialysis method is nearly 90 percent, although it depends on the composition such as hardness component of supplied water. This allows for the effective use of groundwater.

II. Energy Efficiency
The electrodialysis method requires less power than other water purification technologies. Also, it can be used in conjunction with solar panel systems. Thus, it is possible to install the system on-site with limited power sources.

III. Low Operational Cost
Operational costs are about the same or less than the conventional RO process. This is because a high-pressure pump is not needed.

IV. Versatility
Selemion™ can be used in a variety of ways in many applications, such as:

Diffusion Dialysis: 
・Acid recovery

・Table salt production
・Demineralization in food industries
・Industrial wastewater reclamation
・Desalination (tap water)
・Acid recovery
・Substitutional reaction

・Reduction/oxidation reaction
・Electro organic synthesis

Technology Data

Conceivable Applications

・Desalination and nitrate removal of groundwater for drinking water.
・This technology is applicable in areas where water resources depend on limited groundwater, not on sea water or river.
・Supply of drinking water in areas with insufficient power infrastructure.

 [Description of electrodialysis]
An electrodialyzer is composed of anion and cation exchange membranes stacked alternately with thin spacers between them and a pair of electrodes at both ends.
In an electrodialyzer, two types of chambers are placed between a pair of electrodes. One is a desalination (D) chamber partitioned with an anion-exchange membrane on the anode side and a cation-exchange membrane on the cathode side. The second is a concentration (C) chamber partitioned with a cation-exchange membrane on the anode side and an anion-exchange membrane on the cathode side.
Saline water is desalinated in the D chamber and is concentrated in the C chamber, as a result of the electrical potential (see Figure 1).

                                                 Figure 1. Cross section image of an electrodialyzer
                                                                Photo 1. Ion-exchange membranes
                               Left side: Cation-exchange membrane, Right side: Anion-exchange membrane

                                                      Photo 2. Example of an electrodialyzer

Competitive Advantage

1. High water reuse ratio
・The water reuse ratio of the ED (electrodialysis) process is higher than other technologies. Thus, this technology can contribute to the effective use of groundwater.
2. Energy saving
・The ED process requires less power compared with other water purification technologies.
・Although, there are no previous cases yet, because the ED process is powered by direct current, it can be used with solar panel systems, making it possible to install the system on sites with limited power sources.
・Ion exchange resin used in water-softening equipment loses performance as hard minerals build up during use. However the ED process requires no regeneration process to remove hard substances to recover performance, meaning that the amount of chemicals used can be cut significantly.

3. Low operational cost

 ・The operation cost is roughly the same or less than the conventional RO process since a high-pressure pump is not required. 


・The water reuse ratio of this method (electrodialysis method) is close to 90% (This value depends on the composition such as hardness component of water supplied and the target composition of water.) 

・The degree of desalination is adjustable.     

Technical maturity

In the late 1990’s, these systems were installed at more than 10 sites in the Middle East. These projects were related to well water.
We regularly replace membranes used in these systems even after installation. Membrane replacement frequency is roughly once every 4 years, but it depends on the usage situation. As annual maintenance can also serves as operational inspection, an option to replace 25% of the membrane every year is also available.

Conceivable risk

Without proper operation and maintenance (daily and regular), there is a possibility that the performance of the system can not be demonstrated to its full capacity.
In order to avoid this risk, we will work with local partner companies not only to install these systems, but also to build maintenance systems.
Part of maintenance and technical service will be conducted under the guidance of a local company, such as a water engineering company. The biggest risk is that users might operate the system without fully understanding the operation method resulting in damage to membranes. In order to avoid this risk, we also want to perform proper operation and maintenance locally.
The complexity of any electrodialysis water treatment system depends on its conditions and goals, so please make inquiries first.

Company Data

Name AGC Inc.
Address Shin-Marunouchi Bldg., 1-5-1 Marunouchi Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8405 Japan
Capital 90,873 million JPY (As of the end of December 2016)
Contact person Dr. Masaaki OKABE
Phone: +81-80-2110-1391

Number of employees 50,963 (As of the end of December 2016)
Date of company foundation September 8, 1907
The type of business Manufacturing and sales of Glass, Electronics, Chemicals, Ceramics/Other


International operation

Number of employees for international operation 
Close to 40,000 employees
City, Country Name of Company (if applicable)
Singapore AGC Asia Pacific Pte., Ltd., Regional headquarters for Southeast Asia
India AGC Asia Pacific (India) Pvt. Ltd
Other Asia 35 bases
UAE AGC Middle East & Africa FZCO
America 16 bases
Europe 13 bases


Modality of business transaction

Depending on the business environment, it may be possible to consider a partner contract with a local company and consider assembling of electrodialyzers, peripheral equipment, etc.
Export of product
Although it depends on the area, sales and maintenance will be the main exports from Japan.


Schematic  illustration of the technology

Product catalog

Contact Person(s)

Dr. Masaaki OKABEE-mail:

*Please mention that you saw UNIDO's website when making the first contact with the company.

Registered Category

  • Environmental Technologies : Pollution Prevention and Control
  • Agribusiness Technologies : Water resource management