(C) Joel V / Flickr
Research Papers, Publications and Books

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
  • Menachem Elimelech


Royal Society of Chemistry website (e-purchase) 


13 Mar 2018


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

› back


Presentation // Nexus Message on Water-Energy-Food-Climate Through an Urban Lens

By Felix Dodds. Held at the HLPF Side event on "Addressing Resilience through the Nexus of Water-Food-Energy – Cities as SDG Laboratories", 17 July 2018, at United Nations Headquarters, part of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) 2018

// more
Solar-powered Irrigation Systems (SPIS)

Return on Investment Case Study // Accelerating Solar Water Pump Sales in Kenya

This Return on Investment case study by Winrock International shows an increase in gross profits of up to 186% within one to two crop seasons after purchase of a solar water pump (SWP) for smallholder farmers in Kenya. Between August 2015 and December 2016 Winrock demonstrated SWPs to more than 16,000 of such smallholder farmers and found that despite strong demand, the lack of smallholder credit options for solar irrigation is a key obstacle preventing SWP sales from increasing rapidly;...

// more
Urban Nexus

Making Sense of the Urban Nexus // An Integrated Approach to Intersecting Challenges

By Giulia Salvaterra and Michael Woodbridge. Cities are sites of complex and intersecting challenges which threaten the success of the global sustainable development agenda. All over the world, cities face persistent challenges related to increasing climate- and weather-related impacts, insufficient infrastructure, sustained poverty and inequality, resource scarcity, and sustainable service provision. Finding solutions to these challenges will be made even more difficult by growth and migratory...

// more