Abstract Flow-electrode capacitive deionization (FCDI), as a novel electro-driven desalination technology, has attracted growing exploration towards brackish water treatment, hypersaline water treatment, and selective resource recovery in recent years. As a flow-electrode-based electrochemical technology, FCDI has similarities with several other electrochemical technologies such as electrochemical flow capacitors and semi-solid fuel cells, whose performance are closely coupled with the characteristics of the flow-electrodes. In this review, we sort out the potentially parallel mechanisms of electrosorption and electrodialysis in the FCDI desalination process, and make clear the importance of the flowable capacitive electrodes. We then adopt an equivalent circuit model to distinguish the resistances to ion transport and electron transport within the electrodes, and clarify the importance of electronic conductivity on the system performance based on a series of electrochemical tests. Furthermore, we discuss the effects of electrode selection and flow circulation patterns on system performance (energy consumption, salt removal rate), review the current treatment targets and system performance, and then provide an outlook on the research directions in the field to support further applications of FCDI.
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