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Performance investigation of a solar-assisted direct contact membrane distillation system

This paper presents a solar-assisted direct contact membrane distillation (DCMD) system with novel energy recovery concepts for a continuous 24-h-a-day operation. A temperature modulating scheme is introduced to the solar–thermal system that supplies feed seawater to the DCMD modules. This scheme attenuates extreme temperature fluctuations of the feed water by storing the collected energy during solar-peak hours and reutilizing it throughout the day. Thus, the energy savings is realized yet the feed seawater temperature is maintained within the desired range. Additionally, the system employs heat recovery from the permeate and brine streams to the feed seawater. The simulations for such a system with a shell-and-tube type DCMD modules are carried out to examine the spatial property variations and the sensitivity of system performance (i.e., transmembrane pressure, permeate flux and performance ratio) to the operating conditions (inlet temperature and flow rate) and the fiber dimensions (fiber length and packing density). It is found that there are trade-offs between mean permeate flux and performance ratio with respect to permeate inlet temperature and flow rate and between total distillate production and performance ratio with respect to packing density. For the solar-assisted DCMD system having evacuated-tube collectors of 3360 m2 with 160 m3 seawater storage tanks and 50 DCMD modules, the annual solar fraction and the collector efficiency are found to be 77% and 53%, respectively, whilst the overall permeate production capacity is 31 m3/day. The overall specific thermal energy consumption of the DCMD system with heat recovery is found to be 436 kWh/m3 and it is about 43% lower as compared to the system without heat recovery. It is observed that the specific thermal energy consumption decreases significantly by 55% with increased collector area from 1983 m2 to 3360 m2 whereas the specific electrical energy consumption increases slightly by 16%.Highlights► A 31 m3/day solar-assisted DCMD desalination system with TM and HR schemes. ► Development of rigorous mathematical models for predicting the system performance. ► HR system achieves a 43% reduction in overall specific thermal energy consumption. ► Long-term performance investigation of a solar-assisted DCMD desalination system.

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