A procedure to design full-scale air gap membrane distillation (AGMD) processes is presented. A mathematical model was then developed for both direct contact membrane distillation (DCMD) and AGMD. The model is centered on solving local mass and energy balances using a finite difference approach. The full-scale model was calibrated by utilizing the membrane distillation coefficient (MDC) determined by DCMD bench-scale experiments, as the sole adjustable parameter. The MDC was then used to model the water production and energy efficiency of a spiral-wound AGMD full-scale element. The model yields accurate representation of full-scale AGMD elements using polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and polyethylene (PE) membranes. Full-scale experimental results obtained over a wide range of feed flow rates (2 to 4.5 L/min), temperatures (40 to 80 °C), and salinities (0 to 200 g/L NaCl) confirmed that the developed procedure can be applied to model and design large-scale AGMD elements. Furthermore, the model guides the selection of specific temperature and flow conditions at a given salinity and element geometry to maximize water production and energy efficiency. This methodology is suitable for rapid evaluation of novel MD membranes performance in field AGMD applications.
- Energy efficiency
- High salinity
- Membrane distillation coefficient
- Membrane element design
- Scale-up modeling