Reference : Experimental and Theoretical Investigations for the improvement of AGMD Energy Efficiency
Dissertations and theses : Doctoral thesis
Physical, chemical, mathematical & earth Sciences : Physics
Engineering, computing & technology : Energy
Sustainable Development
Experimental and Theoretical Investigations for the improvement of AGMD Energy Efficiency
Dalle, Marie-Alix mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Science, Technology and Medecine (FSTM) > >]
University of Luxembourg, ​Luxembourg, ​​Luxembourg
Docteur en Sciences de l'Ingénieur
Leyer, Stephan mailto
Maas, Stefan mailto
Hansen, Joachim mailto
Bandelier, Philippe mailto
Koschikowski, Joachim mailto
[en] membrane distillation ; desalination ; Schlieren ; spacer ; energy efficiency ; low-tech
[en] Water and power related resources (energy sources and required material) are both critical and crucial resources that have become even more and more strategic as a result of climate change and geopolitics. By making a large store of salty water available, desalination appears to be a viable solution to the water crisis already affecting 40% of the population today. However, because existing desalination procedures are power intensive and rely on non-renewable energy resources, their power use at large scale is unsustainable.
Alternative techniques exist that are promising in terms of environmental impact, but not yet competitive in terms of fresh water outflow and energy efficiency.
The focus of this work is on one of these alternatives, Air-Gap Membrane Distillation (AGMD), which was chosen because it relies on low-grade heat that is easy to collect from solar radiations or from industrial waste heat. This technique mimics the water cycle, thanks to the use of a membrane, allowing to bring the hot and cold water streams closer together. As a result, the temperature difference that drives evaporation is strengthened and the process accelerated. However, the development of a boundary layer at the membrane interface reduces this temperature difference and thus decreases the overall performance of the process. Thus this technique still requires some improvements to become industrially attractive, in terms of fresh water outflow per kWh and energy use. The goal of this thesis work is to contribute to AGMD energy efficiency and output flow enhancement by leveraging both experimental and theoretical considerations.
A test facility characterizing the boundary layer based on a Schlieren method as well as an adapted
AGMD module were designed and built. By interacting with the boundary layer, the laser allows the
observation of the continuous temperature profile in the hot water channel of a at sheet AGMD module.
The measurement can be performed in close proximity to the membrane and under a variety of
operational conditions (inlet hot and cold temperatures, inlet velocities). In parallel, the fresh water
outflow corresponding to these experimental conditions can be measured. Moreover, the experimental layout opens the way for further observations of the AGMD process from a different angle - such as concentration profiles or experimentation in the air-gap - with very little addition.
The overall experimental set-up has eventually been used to produce a first set of data over a range of temperature (60-75◦C), which is then interpreted thanks to a custom algorithm deriving the temperature profiles and boundary layer thicknesses. A three dimensional heat and mass transfer model for AGMD (3DH&MT) - previously developed in the research team - has been used to numerically reproduce the experimental conditions and compare the results. The comparison showed promising results as the temperature gradients at the membrane interface and fresh water outflows present similar orders of magnitude and trends. The accuracy of the experiment can be further increased through several adaptations in the set-up. This 3DH&MT model could be used to simulate more complex AGMD module designs, such as spiral modules in order to optimize the operating conditions and the overall shape of the AGMD module to enhance its performances.
Finally, in the aim of improving the energy efficiency and fresh water outflow of the AGMD process,
spacers are usually added in the individual channels to boost mixing and thus reduce the boundary layer thickness, which improves evaporation flux. Two novel spacer geometries inspired by current industrial mixing state of the art and nature have been proposed and investigated, yielding interesting results for two distinct applications. One is particularly well-suited to maximizing mixing regardless of the energy used, hence improving the energy efficiency of the process. The second is optimal for minimizing energy consumption while maintaining a decent mixing result, thus enhancing the fresh water outflow of the process. A couple of indicators have also been proposed to assess the mixing performance of more complex 3D geometries.
Overall this work broadens the current AGMD research by providing an experimental test-bench enabling the continuous temperature profile measurement, and the validation of a 3D heat and mass transfer model. Moreover, interesting tracks for improving the design of spacers are proposed in order to minimize the AGMD process's energy efficiency resistance.
AGMD is an extremely promising water treatment technique since it is applicable to a broader range of waters than just seawater. The test equipment described in this work is sufficiently adaptable to investigate this potential as well as variants of AGMD processes that might boost its attractiveness. As it is based on readily available materials and technologies, it may be used anywhere and its reliance on a naturally available energy flow (solar radiation) makes it attractive in isolated regions.
University of Luxembourg: High Performance Computing - ULHPC
Researchers ; Professionals ; Students ; General public

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