Numerical simulation and evaluation of spacer-filled direct contact membrane distillation module

Khadije El Kadi, Isam Janajreh, Raed Hashaikeh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Membrane fouling and temperature polarization are the most common issues that cause limitations to membrane distillation (MD) process. Integration of spacers has been proven to resolve those problems by inducing regions of turbulence and giving the required mechanical support to the membrane. In this work, a robust high-fidelity computational fluid dynamics simulation is carried out to assess and quantify the performance of spacer-filled DCMD module and compare it with a baseline spacer-free DCMD module. Mainly, simulations are done to delineate the problem of concentration polarization and by alternating spacers material with different thermal conductivities and different displacement configurations. The performance of these different models is demonstrated in terms of concentration boundary layer development, temperature distributions, temperature polarization coefficient (TPC), mass flux, heat flux, heat transfer coefficient, and thermal efficiency. Results show that concentration polarization can penalize mass flux by nearly 10%, and conductive spacers have favorable effect on the DCMD performance compared to spacer-free in terms of TPC by 50%, mass flux by 35%, heat flux by 31%, thermal efficiency by 1%, and top and bottom membrane surface heat transfer coefficients of, respectively, 19% and 62%. Meanwhile, the stride of the spacers in the range of 1.5–3.5 mm tends to achieve a measurable mass flux. Generally, spacers integration has confirmed the capability of reducing concentration polarization at the membrane surface. These attained improvements will accelerate industrial deployments of MD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number174
JournalApplied Water Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • CFD
  • Membrane distillation
  • Membrane fouling
  • Permeation flux
  • Spacers
  • Temperature polarization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


Dive into the research topics of 'Numerical simulation and evaluation of spacer-filled direct contact membrane distillation module'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this