Used And Scaled Reverse Osmosis Membranes, Used In Desalination

A Korean research team has tested hybrid desalination technology using solar energy and hydrothermal pumps, with results suggesting this technology can be used to help reduce water scarcity in industrial complexes and island areas.

The Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) has developed membrane distillation methods using hydrothermal and solar energy, with the goal of maximising system efficiency through customised technologies for regional climate characteristics.

KIST was established in 1966 as the first government-funded research institute in Korea to establish a national development strategy based on science and technology and disseminate various industrial technologies to promote the development of major industries.

Researchers at KIST believe seawater desalination technology, which produces fresh water from seawater, could solve the problem of water scarcity. 

At KIST, a research team led by Dr Kyung Guen Song from the Centre for Water Cycle Research, has developed a hybrid membrane distillation module that combines solar energy with hydrothermal heat pumps to reduce thermal energy consumption during the desalination process.

Reverse osmosis and evaporation methods are relatively common seawater desalination processes; however, these methods can operate only at high pressures and temperatures. 

In comparison, the membrane distillation method produces fresh water by utilising the vapour pressure generated by the temperature difference between the flowing raw water and treated water separated by a membrane. 

The research team found this approach has the advantage of low energy consumption, as fresh water can be generated at pressures of 0.2-0.8 bar, which is lower than atmospheric pressure, and temperatures of 50-60℃. 

However, large-scale operation requires more thermal energy, so research studies are required to reduce the use of thermal energy for commercial operation.

The KIST Research Team developed a hybrid desalination technology by conducting on-site tests for one month to compare the system performance and economy using solar energy and hydrothermal heat pumps. 

When the system operated in parallel with solar energy, production increased by 9.6 per cent and energy usage was reduced by 30 per cent compared to the membrane distillation method using only hydrothermal heat pumps. 

In addition, comparison of the consumption of thermal energy depending on the presence of solar energy showed that the efficiency of the membrane distillation plant process increased by up to 17.5 per cent when solar energy was used as an additional heat source.

The membrane distillation involves simultaneous mass and heat (energy) transfer. 

It is divided into a direct contact membrane distillation (DCMD) and an air gap membrane distillation (AGMD) based on the modes applied to the treated water side of the membrane to generate vapour pressure differences, which are the driving force. 

For high energy supply, the mode of producing water by direct contact of raw water of high temperature and treated water of low temperature to the membrane surface (i.e. DCMD) is beneficial. 

In contrast, for low energy supply, the efficiency is greater if the heat transmitted (heat loss) is reduced by air gaps, rather than direct contact between raw water and processed water. 

The modes that generate water by condensing over a cold surface and which maintain air gaps between the membrane and the condensation surface (i.e. AGMD) are preferred.

Dr Song said the hybrid desalination technology the research team developed could be considered a method to supply water to some industrial complexes and island areas facing water scarcity, as it can reduce the energy consumption required to generate fresh water. 

“We expect this technology to be applied to significant water supply facilities in the Middle East and Southeast Asia where the annual solar radiation quantity is 1.5 times that in Korea,” Dr Song said.

“Membrane distillation is not significantly affected by raw water quality, so it will be possible to supply drinking water to areas where raw water quality became heavily contaminated due to water pollution and areas where heavy metal detection is high.”

This research was supported by the Korean Ministry of Science and ICT. 

The results have been published in Energy Conversion and Management, an international journal in the mechanics field.

For more information and to read the results, visit here.

Find Related Companies In The Pump Industry Capability Guide

Related articles

©2024 Pump Industry. All rights reserved


We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.


Log in with your credentials


Forgot your details?

Create Account