Water and energy are two intimately interconnected issues of strategic relevance for a sustainable industrial development. Herein, we integrated light-harvesting/self-heating membranes and salinity gradient technology with the aim to implement the innovative concept of light-to-heat-to-power conversion. Novel photothermal membranes, prepared by immobilizing silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) on the top layer of microporous polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) matrix, were tested – for the first time – in a Sweep Gas Membrane Distillation (SGMD) unit applied to the desalination of synthetic seawater solution (0.5M NaCl). As a result of the ability of noble metal nanofillers to act as localized thermoplasmonic nano-heaters at membrane-feed interface for efficient water evaporation, an increase of transmembrane flux under UV radiation by about 10-fold with respect to unloaded PVDF membrane was observed. The SGMD retentate, consisting in hypersaline brine (progressively concentrated up to 4M NaCl and rejected at about 40°C) was fed to a Reverse Electrodialysis unit with the aim to harvest electrochemical energy. The maximum power density, measured for a retentate concentration increasing from 1M to 4M, raised from 0.13 to 0.9 W/m2MP (MP: RED membrane pair). Overall, the proposed integrated membrane system allowed to extract about 10% of the energy not employed for water evaporation.
|Chemical Engineering and Processing - Process Intensification
|Published - 2021 juli
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