Desalination, Vol.171, No.2, 111-131, 2005
Membrane-distillation desalination: status and potential
This paper presents an assessment of membrane distillation (MD) based on the available state of the art and on our preliminary analysis. The process has many desirable properties such as low energy consumption, ability to use low temperature heat, compactness, and perceivably more immunity to fouling than other membrane processes. Within the tested range, the operating parameters of conventional MD configurations have the following effects:(l) the permeate fluxes can significantly be improved by increasing the hot feed temperature (increasing the temperature from 50 to 70degreesC increases the flux by more than three-fold), and by reducing the vapor/air gap (reducing the vapor air gap thickness from 5 to 1 mm increase the flux 2.3-fold); (2) the mass flow rate of the feed solution has a smaller effect: increasing it three-fold increases the flux by about 1.3-fold; (3) the concentration of the solute has slight effect: increasing the concentration by more than five-fold decreases the flux by just 1.15-fold; (4) the cold side conditions have a lower effect (about half) on the flux than the hot side; (5) the coolant mass flow rate has a negligible effect; (6) the coolant temperature has a lower effect than the mass flow rate of the hot solution. Fouling effects, membranes used, energy consumption, system applications and configurations, and very approximate cost estimates are presented. The permeate fluxes obtained by the different researchers seem to disagree by an order of magnitude, and better experimental work is needed.