Evaluating the Potential of Superhydrophobic Nanoporous Alumina Membranes for Direct Contact Membrane Distillation

Navaladian Subramanian, Adnan Qamar, Ahmad Salem Alsaadi, Adair Gallo Junior, Muhammed Ghifari, Jung Gil Lee, Sreekiran Pillai, Sankara Arunachalam, Dalaver H. Anjum, Felix Sharipov, NorEddine Ghaffour, Himanshu Mishra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Hypothesis \n\nDirect contact membrane distillation (DCMD) processes exploit water-repellant membranes to desalt warm seawaters by allowing only water vapor to transport across. While perfluorinated membranes/coatings are routinely used for DCMD, their vulnerability to abrasion, heat, and harsh chemicals necessitates alternatives, such as ceramics. Herein, we systematically assess the potential of ceramic membranes consisting of anodized aluminum oxide (AAO) for DCMD. \n\nExperiments \n\nWe rendered AAO membranes superhydrophobic to accomplish the separation of hot salty water (343 K, 0.7 M NaCl) and cold deionized water (292 K) and quantified vapor transport. We also developed a multiscale model based on computational fluid dynamics, conjugate heat transfer, and the kinetic theory of gases to gain insights into our experiments. \n\nFindings \n\nThe average vapor fluxes, J, across three sets of AAO membranes with average nanochannel diameters (and porosities) centered at 80 nm (32%), 100 nm (37%), and 160 nm (57%) varied by < 25%, while we had expected them to scale with the porosities. Our multiscale simulations unveiled how the high thermal conductivity of the AAO membranes reduced the effective temperature drive for the mass transfer. Our results highlight the limitations of AAO membranes for DCMD and might advance the rational development of desalination membranes.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)723-732
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Colloid and Interface Science
StatePublished - Aug 24 2018

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: The research reported in this publication was supported by funding from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). The authors thank Mr. Ivan Gromicho, Scientific Illustrator at KAUST, for preparing Figure 1.


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