2020-091 – A Hybrid Solar Trigeneration System

Background Water scarcity remains one of the most pertinent issues for the world. Affecting a growing population of around 2.7 billion people worldwide, water supplies are estimated to reduce by 40% over the next decade. While water conservation can potentially save resources, an ever-growing population and greater strain on infrastructure can complicate these efforts. The most overarching solution to water scarcity is to simply produce more water through desalination of seawater, brackish groundwater, or industrial wastewater. Current technologies aimed at desalination, like reverse osmosis, multi-stage flash, and multi-effect distillation, are all energy-intensive and expensive. In addition, these technologies are primarily suited for industrial-scale freshwater production, not smaller-scale inland or remote areas, requiring off-grid energy sources. Alternative membrane distillation modules have been explored to overcome the energy limitations of remote locations; however, the devices require an extensive number of components and lack portability, due to their large size. Due to these downfalls, there still exists a desperate need for a small-scale, decentralized, inexpensive, and energy-independent desalination technique, that can readily produce freshwater for inland and remote areas. Technology Description A researcher at the University of New Mexico has developed a fully-integrated, hybrid solar membrane distillation module that produces freshwater, electricity, and domestic hot water. The proposed unit utilizes solar energy through a unique combination of hybrid solar modules and membrane desalination modules to create an efficient, low-cost, electricity-heat-water trigeneration system. Three different heat extraction techniques have been described. For example, waste heat not readily used by photovoltaic cells is used to heat water and conduct a variety of thermal desalination methods, including vacuum membrane distillation (VMD) and air gap membrane distillation (AGMD). Hydrophobic sheet membranes, hollow fiber membranes, and spiral wound sheet membranes can be utilized as membrane surfaces in the proposed trigeneration system. The novel design allows for an energy-independent, versatile, and modular approach to desalination, perfect for residential, commercial, and industrial consumers. Related to 2020-093. Andrew Roerick aroerick@innovations.unm.edu 505-277-0608

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