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Journal of Nanomaterials
Volume 2016 (2016), Article ID 9327431, 7 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2016/9327431
Research Article

Flux Enhancement in Membrane Distillation Using Nanofiber Membranes

1MemBrain s.r.o, Pod Vinicí 87, 47127 Stráž pod Ralskem, Czech Republic
2Technical University of Liberec, Studentská 1402/2, 46117 Liberec 1, Czech Republic

Received 1 March 2016; Accepted 8 May 2016

Academic Editor: Niranjan Patra

Copyright © 2016 T. Jiříček et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Membrane distillation (MD) is an emerging separation technology, whose largest application potential lies in the desalination of highly concentrated solutions, which are out of the scope of reverse osmosis. Despite many attractive features, this technology is still awaiting large industrial application. The main reason is the lack of commercially available membranes with fluxes comparable to reverse osmosis. MD is a thermal separation process driven by a partial vapour pressure difference. Flux, distillate purity, and thermal efficiency are always in conflict, all three being strictly connected with pore size, membrane hydrophobicity, and thickness. The world has not seen the ideal membrane yet, but nanofibers may offer a solution to these contradictory requirements. Membranes of electrospun PVDF were tested under various conditions on a direct contact (DCMD) unit, in order to determine the optimum conditions for maximum flux. In addition, their performance was compared to commonly available PTFE, PE, and PES membranes. It was confirmed that thinner membranes have higher fluxes and a lower distillate purity and also higher energy losses via conduction across the membrane. As both mass and heat transfer are connected, it is best to develop new membranes with a target application in mind, for the specific membrane module and operational conditions.