A molecular to macro level assessment of direct contact membrane distillation for separating organics from water

Sreekiran Pillai, Adriano Santana, Ratul Das, Buddha R. Shrestha, Edelberto Manalastas, Himanshu Mishra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The removal of water-soluble organics from aqueous feeds is required in numerous practical applications, including bioresource processing, fermentation, and wastewater treatment. To this end, direct contact membrane distillation (DCMD) has been proposed as a separation technology. DCMD utilizes hydrophobic membranes – typically, comprising perfluorocarbons – which, when placed between a warm feed and a cold permeate, prevent mixing due to the robust entrapment of air inside the (membranes') pores. Thus, the membranes allow only pure water vapor to transport across, following the thermal gradient. Here, we assessed DCMD for separating organics from aqueous feeds in light of organic fouling by utilizing ethanol and perfluorodecyltrichlorosilane (FDTS) as the surrogate organic and hydrophobic coating, respectively. We investigated the adsorption of ethanol onto FDTS-grafted surfaces and membranes exposed to alcohol-water mixtures. Using the surface force apparatus, we found that the magnitude of hydrophobic forces between ultra-smooth FDTS-grafted mica surfaces in water-alcohol mixtures decreased with the increasing alcohol content. To simulate a practical DCMD scenario, we utilized FDTS-grafted polycarbonate membranes to separate a pure water reservoir from another containing 0.6 M NaCl and alcohol. For the 0% alcohol case, the membranes robustly separated the reservoirs for over a week, whereas even for ≥0.1% ethanol content, the membranes leaked within
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118140
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
StatePublished - Apr 12 2020

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: HM acknowledges KAUST for funding. SP acknowledges Dr. Andrea Farinha and Dr. Krishna Katuri (KAUST) for assistance with gas chromatography; Mr. Sankara Arunachalam (KAUST) and Muhammed Ghifari Ridwan (KAUST) for assistance with contact angle measurements.


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