Advances in Membrane Distillation Module Configurations

Lijo Francis, Farah Ejaz Ahmed, Nidal Hilal

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Membrane Distillation (MD) is a membrane-based, temperature-driven water reclamation process. While research emphasis has been largely on membrane design, upscaling of MD has prompted advancements in energy-efficient module design and configurations. Apart from the four conventional configurations, researchers have come up with novel MD membrane module designs and configurations to improve thermal efficiency. While membrane design has been the focus of many studies, development of appropriate system configurations for optimal energy efficiency for each application has received considerable attention, and is a critical aspect in advancing MD configurations. This review assesses advancements in modified and novel MD configurations design with emphasis on the effects of upscaling and pilot scale studies. Improved MD configurations discussed in this review are the material gap MD, conductive gap MD, permeate gap MD, vacuumenhanced AGMD/DCMD, submerged MD, flashed-feed MD, dead-end MD, and vacuum-enhanced multi-effect MD. All of these modified MD configurations are designed either to reduce the heat loss by mitigating the temperature polarization or to improve the mass transfer and permeate flux. Vacuum-enhanced MD processes and MD process with non-contact feed solution show promise at the lab-scale and must be further investigated. Hollow fiber membrane-based pilot scale modules have not yet been sufficiently explored. In addition, comparison of various configurations is prevented by a lack of standardized testing conditions. We also reflect on recent pilot scale studies, ongoing hurdles in commercialization, and niche applications of the MD process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number81
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Advanced membrane distillation
  • Brine treatment
  • Desalination
  • Membrane modules
  • Pilot scale studies
  • Water treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemical Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Filtration and Separation


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