Abstract

3D laminar flow simulations were conducted using OpenFOAM to resolve the temperature, concentration, velocity, and pressure field for two hollow fiber vacuum membrane distillation configurations with feed solution flowing either inside or outside a single hollow fiber. The fiber has a circular cross-section, a fixed length of 120mm, and an inner diameter of 2 mm. The wall thickness was varied from 150 to 450μm, and the pore diameter was varied from 0.1 to 0.3μm based on commercial fibers. The feed solution is an aqueous solution of water and NaCl. The feed flow was simulated at a Reynolds number of 500 and vacuum pressure of 5,000 Pascals. It was found that there was a 75% increase in flux, from 9.58 to 41.41 kg/m2h, between the worst and the best case in membrane properties. Increasing the pore diameter or wall thickness while the other value was fixed resulted in a 45–57% flux increase depending on the fixed value. The module with the feed solution flowing outside a hollow fiber yields 24% higher flux than the module with the feed solution flowing inside the hollow fiber at the same conditions.

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