Functional Materials for Desalination via Membrane Distillation

Diagram and graphs showing AGMD seawater desalination with intermittent joule heating at membrane surface and rapid thermal response


Nidal Hilal, Principal Invesitgator

Farah Ahmed, Researcher

Existing membrane-based desalination processes are not suitable for treatment of challenging feed solutions, such as highly saline water of the Arabian Gulf.

Membrane distillation combines high separation efficiency with low sensitivity to feed salinity of thermal processes with compact membrane systems. Low energy efficiency and low productivity hinder the commercialization of membrane distillation.

Our research addresses these challenges by combining materials-based approaches with modifications to process design. Her work on electrically conducting carbon-based nanomaterials aims to improve the performance and energy efficiency in membrane distillation systems. Most recently, we developed porous hydrophobic membrane heaters based on carbon nanotubes to improve pure water vapor flux through localized surface heating for seawater desalination using membrane distillation in different configurations.

Our work in this area opens avenues for sustainable desalination, oily wastewater treatment and brine management.