Thermal desalination is a technique that uses heat or thermal energy to desalinate water, unlike reverse osmosis. Membrane distillation (MD) is a type of thermal desalination technology having various configurations. Air gap membrane distillation (AGMD) is one of the more energy efficient MD configurations, being especially advantageous over other configurations at high salinity. However, the large mass transfer resistance of the air gap dramatically reduces the permeate flux, impairing performance. Higher condensation performance can be achieved by using a smaller air gap size, but typical film-wise condensation flow patterns flood the air gap at the optimal gap size (<1 mm). Experiments show that dropwise and jumping-droplet condensation regimes, achieved using hydrophobic and superhydrophobic condensing surfaces respectively, can improve droplet shedding, allowing for thinner gap sizes. A systemlevel numerical model is used to demonstrate that these surfaces could thereby enable improved energy efficiency (2.1× increase of gained output ratio) while avoiding flooding at gap sizes as small as 0.2 mm. Superhydrophobic surfaces with directional jumping of droplets, specifically in the direction of gravity, are also tested and compared to droplets that jump normal to the condensing surface. Novel condensing surfaces that include a combination of the superhydrophobic and superhydrophilic patterns create flow regimes having pathways for faster permeate removal. Other condensing surfaces, including SLIPS (slippery liquidinfused porous surfaces) and laser-ablated superhydrophobic patterned surfaces are tested to the check the extent to which they improve the permeate removal rate while exhibiting different condensation regimes that merit further exploration.


desalination; membranes; transport; condensation; membrane distillation

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