Insights and Challenges for Applying Bipolar Membranes in Advanced Electrochemical Energy Systems

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Bipolar membranes (BPMs) are gaining interest in energy conversion technologies. These membranes are composed of cation- and anion-exchange layers, with an interfacial layer in between. This gives the freedom to operate in different conditions (pH, concentration, composition) at both sides. Such membranes are used in two operational modes, forward and reverse bias. BPMs have been implemented in various electrochemical applications, like water and CO2 electrolyzers, fuel cells, and flow batteries, while BPMs are historically designed for acid/base production. Therefore, current commercial BPMs are not optimized, as the conditions change per application. Although the ideal BPM has highly conductive layers, high water dissociation kinetics, long lifetime, and low ion crossover, each application has its own priorities to be competitive in its field. We describe the challenges and requirements for future BPMs, and identify existing developments that can be leveraged to develop BPMs toward the scale of practical applications.