Investigations on Solar Powered Direct Contact Membrane Distillation

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Virginia Tech


Desalination is one of the proposed methods to meet the ever increasing water demands. It can be subdivided into two broad categories, thermal based desalination and electricity based desalination. Multi-effect Distillation (MED), Multi-Stage Flashing (MSF), Membrane Distillation (MD) fall under former and Reverse Osmosis (RO), Electro-Dialysis (ED) fall under later. MD offers an attractive solution for seawater as well as brackish water distillation. It shows highly pure yields, theoretically 100% pure. The overall construction of a MD unit is way simpler than any other desalination systems.

MD is a thermally driven diffusion process where desalination takes places in the form of water vapor transport across the membrane. It has low second law efficiency due to parasitic heat losses. The objective of the first part of the investigation is to thoroughly analyze a Direct Contact Membrane Distillation (DCMD) system from the view point of yield and exergy. The insights from exergy analysis are used in a design study, which is used for performance optimization. The first part concludes with a design procedure and design windows for large scale DCMD construction.

In the second part of the investigation, focus is moved to waveguide solar energy collector. The idea behind an ideal waveguide is to reduce the complexity of modeling solar energy collection. The mathematical model provided in this analysis can be extended to a family of non-imaging optics in solar energy and serves as a benchmarking analysis tool. A waveguide is suitable for low temperature operations due to limitations on maximum continuous temperature of operation. Thus, it becomes an ideal solution for DCMD applications. A levelized cost analysis is presented for a waveguide powered DCMD plant of a 30,000 capacity. A combination of waveguide and DCMD shows levelized cost of water at $1.80/m³, which is found to be lower than previously reported solar desalination water costs.



seawater desalination, membrane distillation, direct contact membrane distillation, exergy analysis, recovery ratio, Optimization, levelized cost, waveguide, solar desalination