Membrane distillation (MD) is a promising thermally-driven membrane separation technology for water desalination. In MD, water vapor is being separated from the hot feed water solution using a micro-porous hydrophobic membrane, due to the difference in vapor pressures across the membrane. In the present work, experiments are conducted to compare the performance of water gap membrane distillation (WGMD) and air gap membrane distillation (AGMD) modules under the main operating and design conditions including the feed and coolant temperatures, membrane material and pore sizes, and the gap width. Results showed that the WGMD module produced higher fluxes as compared to the AGMD module, for all test conditions. The feed temperature is the dominant factor affecting the system flux. The permeate flux increases with reducing the gap width for both water and air gap modules. However, WGMD module was found to be less sensitive to the change in the gap width compared to the AGMD module. The PTFE membrane produced higher permeate flux as compared to the PVDF membrane. Bigger mean pore diameter enhanced the permeate flux, however, this enhancement is marginal at high feed temperatures. With increasing the feed temperature, the GOR values increase and the specific energy consumption decreases.

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