Membrane distillation for desalination involves the passage of hot salt water over a microporous, hydrophobic membrane that allows pure water vapor through while retaining the dissolved salts in solution. In the PGMD design, the other side of this membrane contains a water column that fills the entire region between the membrane and the condensing surface. The gaps in the PGMD systems include a spacer material, often made of plastic, to hold the membrane in place.
This technology uses conductive metal spacers in an enhanced PGMD system. Detailed modeling of the heat and heat mass transfer processes shows the high conductivity spacer yielding positive effects, including a greatly reduced transport resistance across the gap and up to twice the energy efficiency of other membrane distillation configurations. The gap conductivity can be increased by using a metal mesh, metallic wool or any porous metal medium. The material used should be corrosion resistant as it is in continuous contact with liquid water.