An Experimental and Theoretical Study on Separations by Vacuum Membrane Distillation Employing Hollow-Fiber Modules
Vacuum membrane distillation (VMD) is an attractive variant of the novel membrane distillation process, which is promising for various separations, including water desalination and bioethanol recovery through fermentation of agro-industrial by-products. This publication is part of an effort to develop a capillary membrane module for various applications, as well as a model that would facilitate VMD process design. Experiments were conducted in a laboratory pilot VMD unit, comprising polypropylene capillary-membrane modules. Performance data, collected at modest temperatures (37 °C to 65 °C) with deionized and brackish water, confirmed the improved system productivity with increasing feed-water temperature; excellent salt rejection was obtained. The recovery of ethanol from ethanol-water mixtures and from fermented winery by-products was also studied, in continuous, semi-continuous, and batch operating modes. At low-feed-solution temperature (27–47 °C), ethanol-solution was concentrated 4 to 6.5 times in continuous operation and 2 to 3 times in the semi-continuous mode. Taking advantage of the small property variation in the module axial-flow direction, a simple VMD process model was developed, satisfactorily describing the experimental data. This VMD model appears to be promising for practical applications, and warrants further R&D work.