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International Heat Transfer Conference 15

ISSN: 2377-424X (online)
ISSN: 2377-4371 (flashdrive)

A Numerical Solution Algorithm for a Heat and Mass Transfer Model of a Desalination System Based on Packed-Bed Humidification and Bubble Column dehumidification

Karim Chehayeb
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Farah K. Cheaib
Department of Mechanical Engineering, American University of Beirut

John H. Lienhard V
Rohsenow Kendall Heat and Mass Transfer Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 02139, USA

DOI: 10.1615/IHTC15.eef.008995
pages 2143-2157

KEY WORDS: Numerical simulation and super-computing, Energy efficiency, desalination, humidification, dehumidification, packed-bed, multi-tray, bubble column, thermodynamic balancing, heat and mass exchangers


The humidification-dehumidification (HDH) desalination system can be advantageous in small-scale, off-grid applications. The main drawback of this technology has been its low energy efficiency, which results in high water production costs. Previous studies have approached this issue through thermodynamic balancing of the system; however, most theoretical work on the balancing of HDH has followed a fixed-effectiveness approach that does not explicitly consider transport processes in the components. Fixing the effectiveness of the heat and mass exchangers allows them to be modeled without explicitly sizing the components and gives insight on how the cycle design can be improved. However, linking the findings of fixed-effectiveness models to actual systems can be challenging, as the performance of the components depends mainly on the available surface areas and the flow rates of the air and water streams. In this study, we present a robust numerical solution algorithm for a heat and mass tranfer model of a complete humidification-dehumidification system consisting of a packed-bed humidifier and a multi-tray bubble column dehumidifier. We look at the effect of varying the water-to-air mass flow rate ratio on the energy efficiency of the system, and we compare the results to those reached following a fixed-effectiveness approach. In addition, we study the effect of the top and bottom temperatures on the performance of the system. We recommended the implementation a control system that varies the mass flow rate ratio in order to keep the system balanced in off-design conditions, especially with varying top temperature.

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