Desalination of brackish water by a batch reverse osmosis desalink system for use with solar thermal energy

  • Tianyu Qiu

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


For remote, semi-arid areas, brackish groundwater (BW) desalination powered by solar energy may serve as the most technically and economically viable means to alleviate the water stresses. For such systems, high recovery ratio is desired because of the technical and economical difficulties of concentrate management. It has been demonstrated that the current, conventional solar reverse osmosis (RO) desalination can be improved by 40–200 times by eliminating unnecessary energy losses. In this work, a batch-RO system that can be powered by a thermal Rankine cycle has been developed. By directly recycling high pressure concentrates and by using a linkage connection to provide increasing feed pressures, the batch-RO has been shown to achieve a 70% saving in energy consumption compared to a continuous single-stage RO system. Theoretical investigations on the mass transfer phenomena, including dispersion and concentration polarization, have been carried out to complement and to guide experimental efforts. The performance evaluation of the batch-RO system, named DesaLink, has been based on extensive experimental tests performed upon it. Operating DesaLink using compressed air as power supply under laboratory conditions, a freshwater production of approximately 300 litres per day was recorded with a concentration of around 350 ppm, whilst the feed water had a concentration range of 2500–4500 ppm; the corresponding linkage efficiency was around 40%. In the computational aspect, simulation models have been developed and validated for each of the subsystems of DesaLink, upon which an integrated model has been realised for the whole system. The models, both the subsystem ones and the integrated one, have been demonstrated to predict accurately the system performance under specific operational conditions. A simulation case study has been performed using the developed model. Simulation results indicate that the system can be expected to achieve a water production of 200 m3 per year by using a widely available evacuated tube solar collector having an area of only 2 m2. This freshwater production would satisfy the drinking water needs of 163 habitants in the Rajasthan region, the area for which the case study was performed.
Date of Award3 Jul 2014
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPhilip A Davies (Supervisor)


  • brackish water
  • reverse osmosis
  • desalination
  • batch-mode
  • rankine cycle

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