Nowadays, ion-exchange membranes have numerous applications in water desalination, electrolysis, chemistry, food, health, energy, environment and other fields. All of these applications require high selectivity of ion transfer, i.e., high membrane permselectivity. The transport properties of ion-exchange membranes are determined by their structure, composition and preparation method. For various applications, the selectivity of transfer processes can be characterized by different parameters, for example, by the transport number of counterions (permselectivity in electrodialysis) or by the ratio of ionic conductivity to the permeability of some gases (crossover in fuel cells). However, in most cases there is a correlation: the higher the flux density of the target component through the membrane, the lower the selectivity of the process. This correlation has two aspects: first, it follows from the membrane material properties, often expressed as the trade-off between membrane permeability and permselectivity; and, second, it is due to the concentration polarization phenomenon, which increases with an increase in the applied driving force. In this review, both aspects are considered. Recent research and progress in the membrane selectivity improvement, mainly including a number of approaches as crosslinking, nanoparticle doping, surface modification, and the use of special synthetic methods (e.g., synthesis of grafted membranes or membranes with a fairly rigid three-dimensional matrix) are summarized. These approaches are promising for the ion-exchange membranes synthesis for electrodialysis, alternative energy, and the valuable component extraction from natural or waste-water. Perspectives on future development in this research field are also discussed.
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