The regeneration of a liquid desiccant using direct contact membrane distillation to unlock the potential of coastal desert agriculture
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AbstractIn Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, a lack of freshwater, poor soil quality, and ambient temperatures unsuitable for cultivation for parts of the year hinders domestic agriculture. The result is a reliance on a fluctuating supply of imported fresh produce which may have high costs and compromised quality. There are agricultural technologies available such as hydroponics and controlled environment agriculture (CEA) that can allow GCC countries to overcome poor soil quality and ambient temperatures unsuitable for cultivation, respectively. Evaporative cooling is the most common form of cooling for CEA and requires a significant amount of water. In water-scarce regions, it is desirable for sea or brackish water to be used for evaporative cooling. Unfortunately, in many coastal desert regions, evaporative cooling does not provide enough cooling due to the high wet-bulb temperature of the ambient air during hot and humid months of the year. A liquid desiccant dehumidification system has been proven to lower the wet-bulb temperature of ambient air in the coastal city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to a level that allows for evaporative cooling to meet the needs of heat-sensitive crops. Much of the past research on the regeneration of the liquid desiccant solution has been on configurations that release water vapor back to the atmosphere. Studies have shown that the amount of water captured by the liquid desiccant when used to dehumidify a greenhouse can supply a significant amount of the water needed for irrigation. This thesis studied the regeneration of a magnesium chloride (MgCl2) liquid desiccant solution from approximately 20 to 31wt% by direct contact membrane distillation and explored the possibility of using the recovered water for irrigation. Two microporous hydrophobic PTFE membranes were experimentally tested and modeled when the bulk feed and coolant temperature difference was between 10 and 60°C. In eight experiments, the salt rejection was higher than 99.97% and produced permeate suitable for irrigation with a concentration of MgCl2 less than 94 ppm.