Electrodialysis is used for demineralization of milk products and whey for infant formula and special dietary products. Also used for desalination of water.

Principles of operation:

Under the influence of an electric field, ions move in an aqueous solution. The ionic mobility is directly proportioned to specific conductivity and inversely proportioned to number of molecules in solution. ~3-6 x 102 mm/sec.

Charged ions can be removed from a solution by synthetic polymer membranes containing ion exchange groups. Anion exchange membranes carry cationic groups which repel cations and are permeable to anions, and cation exchange membranes contain anionic groups and are permeable only to cations.

Schematic diagram to show amion and cation exchange membranesElectrodialysis membranes are comprised of polymer chains - styrene-divinyl benzene made anionic with quaternary ammonium groups and made cationic with sulphonic groups. 1-2V is then applied across each pair of membranes.

Electrodialysis process:

Amion and cation exchange membranes are arranged alternately in parallel between an anode and a cathode (see this schematic diagram to the right). The distance between the membranes is 1mm or less. A plate and frame arrangement similar to a plate heat exchanger or a plate filter is used. The solution to be demineralized flows through gaps between the two types of membranes. Each type of membrane is permeable to only one type of ion. Thus, the anions leave the gap in the direction of the anode and cations leave in the direction of the cathode. Both are then taken up by a concentrating stream. 


Concentration polarization. Deposits on membrane surfaces, e.g. proteins - pH control is important. Prior concentration of whey, to 20% TS, is necessary before electrodialysis.