Active Membrane Energy Exchanger for Air Cooling and Dehumidification

Date of this Version



HVAC, Dehumidification, Membranes, Parametric study


Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment consume 35% of total building energy use in the US, among which a large share is used for cooling and dehumidification. The majority of air dehumidification systems take the conventional approach of moisture condensation removal. It requires air to be cooled below its dew point temperature and is an energy-intensive process, especially for areas with hot and humid climates. Vapor selective membrane systems are promising alternatives for air dehumidification as they do not require cooling energy for latent (humidity) heat removal. It allows water vapor transport through the membrane while blocking air. Previous thermodynamic modeling and preliminary testing of a membrane-based HVAC device developed by our group, referred to as the Active Membrane Energy Exchanger (AMX), has shown great potential for energy savings. High air/water selectivity membranes were fabricated and tested. A prototype of AMX with the outdoor air simulation (OAS) system was designed and assembled to test the performance of a real system and compare it against modeled performance. Temperature and humidity supplied to the prototype were varied across a broad range to simulate different climate conditions. The humidity removal rate was investigated for the effect of airflow rate and simultaneous cooling. The results complement the previous modeling studies of AMX that investigated the potential improvement in air conditioning energy consumption. The prototype design demonstrates the constructability of the proposed AMX system and serves as a pivotal step towards system scale-up for energy savings at the building level.

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