Membrane Distillation processes could enable the treatment of highly saline solutions and facilitate minimal (MLD) or zero liquid discharge (ZLD) applications. Ceramic membranes can be a robust alternative to polymeric membranes if they are chemically modified to exhibit hydrophobic qualities to prevent wetting, particularly for vacuum membrane distillation (VMD). This study found that the thin top layer of asymmetrically structured ceramic membranes is robust enough for highly saline and abrasive suspensions and that TiO2 membranes outperform Al2O3 membranes in respect to the mass transport due to their larger support pore size and lower thermal conductivity. A maximum permeate flux of 35 kg/(m2 h) with exceptionally high rejections were measured in VMD using a saline brine with a concentration of 350 g NaCl per kg H2O. Furthermore, a VMD mass transfer model was successfully adopted (based on the Dusty Gas Model) to facilitate the calculation of the mass transfer through asymmetrically structured TiO2 membranes. Model deficiencies such as the underestimation of polarization effects were discussed, and correction factors integrated accordingly. This was done to establish a mass transfer modelling fundament for asymmetrical ceramic membranes used in MD that can be extended in future works and possibly serve as a tool for membrane optimization.



  • J. Schnittger, T. Hoyer, M. Weyd, I. Voigt | Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS), Germany
  • Jeffrey R. McCutcheon | University of Connecticut, Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, United States of America
  • A. Lerch | TUD Dresden University of Technology, Germany