Dead-end membrane distillation with localized interfacial heating for sustainable and energy-efficient desalination

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33 Scopus citations


Membrane distillation (MD) has the high potential to circumvent conventional desalination limitations in treating highly saline brines. However, the performance of MD is limited by its low thermal efficiency and temperature polarization (TP) effect. Consequently, the driving force decreases when heat loss increases. In this study, we propose to minimize TP through localized heating where the thin feed channel was heated uniformly at the membrane-liquid interface without changing the properties of the membrane. This concept was further improved by implementing a new dead-end MD configuration. Investigated for the first time, this configuration eliminated circulation heat losses, which cannot be realized in conventional MD due to a rapid temperature stratification. In addition, the accumulation of foulants on the membrane surface was successfully controlled by intermittent flushing. 3-Dimensional conjugate heat transfer modeling revealed more uniform heat transfer and temperature gradient across the membrane due to the increased feed water temperature over a larger membrane area. The increase of water vapor flux (45%) and the reduction of heat loss observed in the new dead-end concept led to a decrease of the specific energy consumption by 57%, corresponding to a gain output ratio increase of about 132 %, compared to a conventional bulk heating, while preserving membrane integrity. A conjugate heat transfer model was deployed in ANSYS-Fluent framework to elucidate on the mechanism of flux enhancement associated with the proposed technique. This study provides a framework for future sustainable MD development by maintaining a stable vapor flux while minimizing energy consumption.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)116584
JournalWater Research
StatePublished - Oct 30 2020

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-11-02
Acknowledgements: The research reported in this paper was supported by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia. The authors acknowledge help, assistance and support from the Water Desalination and Reuse Center (WDRC) and KAUST Supercomputing Laboratory (KSL) staff.


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