This paper presents a concept for desalination by reverse osmosis (RO) using a vapor-trapping membrane. The membrane is composed of hydrophobic nanopores and separates the feed salt water and the fresh water (permeate) side. The feed water is vaporized by applied pressure and the water vapor condenses on the permeate side accompanied by recovery of latent heat. A probabilistic model was developed for transport of water vapor inside the nanopores, which predicted 3–5 times larger mass flux than conventional RO membranes at temperatures in the range of 30–50°C. An experimental method to realize short and hydrophobic nanopores is presented. Gold was deposited at the entrance of alumina pores followed by modification using an alkanethiol self-assembled monolayer. The membranes were tested for defective or leaking pores using a calcium ion indicator (Fluo-4). This method revealed the existence of defect-free areas in the 100–200 μm size range that are sufficient for flux measurement. Finally, a microfluidic flow cell was created for characterizing the transport properties of the fabricated membranes.

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