Due to water scarcity in the Arabic gulf region, water desalination technologies are considered extremely important. The present work represents a fundamental study on the effect of basic operating and design variables on the flux of an air gap membrane distillation (AGMD) unit for water desalination. The flat sheet, channeled air gap membrane distillation module was designed and manufactured locally. The effect of feed flow rate, feed temperature, coolant water temperature, the air gap width, and the water salinity on the module flux are investigated. Analytical model for heat and mass transfer is used to predict the flux and the model results are compared to the experimental ones. Results showed that the technique has good potential to be used for water desalination. The permeate flux is increased by increasing feed flow rate, feed temperature, decreasing the air gap width, decreasing coolant temperature, and decreasing salinity of feed water. For a given feed flow rate, the width of the air gap and the feed water temperature are found to be the most effective parameters in increasing the distillate flux. Predicting the permeate flux with analytical models for heat and mass transfer showed good agreement with experimental results.

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