The Effect of Gap Reduction on Fluid Dynamics and Mass Transfer in Membrane Narrow Channels Filled with Novel Spacers—A Detailed Computational Study
The effect of gap thickness reduction 2h (i.e., the reduction h at each membrane surface) is studied on the flow field and mass transfer, in membrane channels filled with novel spacers, under conditions representative of those prevailing in RO desalination modules. The patented novel net-type spacers are comprised of regularly-spaced spherical nodes (in contact with the membranes) and interconnecting cylindrical filaments at the midplane of the channel. Advanced 3D flow simulations, performed at “unit cell” level, show the strong effect of a modest gap reduction on the flow field. Analysis of the computational results leads to new insights regarding flow development as well as to useful correlations of key process parameters (i.e., for friction losses, mass-transfer rates, wall shear stresses) accounting for the effect of gap reduction. Contrary to conventional spacers, the novel spacer geometry, under conditions of usual/modest channel-gap reduction, exhibits no stagnant flow zones and relatively high shear stresses on both the membranes and the filaments, which leads to desirable mitigation of fouling and a reduction in concentration polarization. The developed correlations can be adapted to existing advanced simulators of RO module performance for improved process design and optimization.