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Resource  |  , Research Papers, Publications and Books  |  16 Apr 2018

Membrane Distillation at the Water-Energy Nexus // Limits, Opportunities, and Challenges

By Akshay Deshmukh, Chanhee Boo, Vasiliki Karanikola, et al. Energy-efficient desalination and water treatment technologies play a critical role in augmenting freshwater resources without placing an excessive strain on limited energy supplies. By desalinating high-salinity waters using low-grade or waste heat, membrane distillation (MD) has the potential to increase sustainable water production, a key facet of the water-energy nexus. However, despite advances in membrane technology and the development of novel process configurations, the viability of MD as an energy-efficient desalination process remains uncertain.

In this review, the authors examine the key challenges facing MD and explore the opportunities for improving MD membranes and system design. They begin by exploring how the energy efficiency of MD is limited by the thermal separation of water and dissolved solutes. They then assess the performance of MD relative to other desalination processes, including reverse osmosis and multi-effect distillation, comparing various metrics including energy efficiency, energy quality, and susceptibility to fouling. By analysing the impact of membrane properties on the energy efficiency of an MD desalination system, they demonstrate the importance of maximising porosity and optimising thickness to minimise energy consumption. They also show how ineffective heat recovery and temperature polarisation can limit the energetic performance of MD and how novel process variants seek to reduce these inefficiencies. Fouling, scaling, and wetting can have a significant detrimental impact on MD performance. They outline how novel membrane designs with special surface wettability and process-based fouling control strategies may bolster membrane and process robustness. Finally, they explore applications where MD may be able to outperform established desalination technologies, increasing water production without consuming large amounts of electrical or high-grade thermal energy. They conclude by discussing the outlook for MD desalination, highlighting challenges and key areas for future research and development.


Akshay Deshmukh
Chanhee Boo
Vasiliki Karanikola
Shihong Lin
Anthony P. Straub
Tiezheng Tong
David M. Warsinger


Royal Society of Chemistry website (e-purchase) 


13 Mar 2018


Energy & Environmental Science, 2018, Advance Article
DOI: 10.1039/C8EE00291F

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Resource  |  , Infographics  |  18 Apr 2018

A Simple Shift to More Sustainable Eating // Plant-based Burger Could Save Emissions Equal to 2 Million Cars

By Richard Waite, Daniel Vennard and Gerard Pozzi. Americans eat approximately 10 billion burgers each year. Replacing 30 percent of the beef in those burgers with mushrooms would, according to a study by the World Research...› more

Research Papers, Publications and Books  |  , Resource  |  , MENA  |  17 Apr 2018

Nexus in the MENA Region // Assessment of the Water-Energy Nexus in the Municipal Water Sector in Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia

By Homoud Al-Mutrafi, Waleed Al-Zubari, Alaa El-Sadek and Ibrahim Abdel Gelil. This paper performs an assessment of the water-energy nexus in the municipal sector of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, where the electric energy...› more

Policy Papers  |  , Resource  |  , South America  |  17 Apr 2018

Strengthening Climate Resilience in Urban Amazonia // Experiences from Tarapoto and the Cumbaza Watershed in San Martín, Peru

This brief presents a Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus case study of the Cumbaza River watershed in San Martin, Peru. The dynamic socio-ecological pressures and complex water-energy-food system interdependencies that exist in...› more