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Renewable water: Direct contact membrane distillation coupled with solar ponds
- Suárez, Francisco, Ruskowitz, Jeffrey A., Tyler, Scott W., Childress, Amy E.
- Applied energy 2015 v.158 pp. 532-539
- desalination, distillation, freshwater, greenhouse gas emissions, heat, insulating materials, solar collectors, solar energy, water flow
- Desalination powered by renewable energy sources is an attractive solution to address the worldwide water-shortage problem without contributing significant to greenhouse gas emissions. A promising system for renewable energy desalination is the utilization of low-temperature direct contact membrane distillation (DCMD) driven by a thermal solar energy system, such as a salt-gradient solar pond (SGSP). This investigation presents the first experimental study of fresh water production in a coupled DCMD/SGSP system. The objectives of this work are to determine the experimental fresh water production rates and the energetic requirements of the different components of the system. From the laboratory results, it was found that the coupled DCMD/SGSP system treats approximately six times the water flow treated by a similar system that consisted of an air–gap membrane distillation unit driven by an SGSP. In terms of the energetic requirements, approximately 70% of the heat extracted from the SGSP was utilized to drive thermal desalination and the rest was lost in different locations of the system. In the membrane module, only half of the useful heat was actually used to transport water across the membrane and the remainder was lost by conduction in the membrane. It was also found that by reducing heat losses throughout the system would yield higher water fluxes, pointing out the need to improve the efficiency throughout the DCMD/SGSP coupled system. Therefore, further investigation of membrane properties, insulation of the system, or optimal design of the solar pond must be addressed in the future.