Transport Membrane Condenser Heat Exchangers to Break the Water-Energy Nexus—A Critical Review

Under the notion of water-energy nexus, the unsustainable use of water in power plants has been largely accepted in silence. Moreover, the evaporated water from power plants acts as a primary nucleation source of particulate matter (PM), rendering significant air pollution and adverse health issues. With the emergence of membrane-based dehydration processes such as vapor permeation membrane, membrane condenser, and transport membrane condenser, it is now possible to capture and recycle the evaporated water. Particularly, the concept of transport membrane condensers (TMCs), also known as membrane heat exchangers, has attracted a lot of attention among the membrane community. A TMC combines the advantages of heat exchangers and membranes, and it offers a unique tool to control the transfer of both mass and energy. In this review, recent progress on TMC technology was critically assessed. The effects of TMC process parameters and membrane properties on the dehydration efficiencies were analyzed. The peculiar concept of capillary condensation and its impact on TMC performance were also discussed. The main conclusion of this review was that TMC technology, although promising, will only be competitive when the recovered water quality is high and/or the recovered energy has some energetic value (water temperature above 50 ◦C).

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