Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title







School of Engineering




Kariman, H., Shafieian, A., & Khiadani, M. (2023). Small scale desalination technologies: A comprehensive review. Desalination, 567, article 116985.


In recent decades, problems related to fresh water has become a very important issue for humans. Small-scale desalination (SSD) systems, besides large-scale desalination (LSD) systems, fulfil an important role in meeting freshwater demand by eliminating the cost of transmission and have the advantage of treating water on-site. In this study, for the first time, a comprehensive review of previous studies has been carried out on SSD systems (less than 25 m3/d water production). These systems are powered using renewable, non-renewable or hybrid sources of energy, incorporating different treatment technologies such as: reverse osmosis (RO); electro dialysis (ED); capacitive deionization (CDI); membrane desalination (MD); humidification–dehumidification processes (HDH); multi-effect desalination (MED); and hybrid technologies, including a combination of RO-UF, RO-ED and RO-MED. The advantages and drawbacks of the systems that operate using fossil fuels and renewable energy (RE) systems have been studied, considering membrane, evaporation and salinity features. Among these, solar-based desalination systems are the most popular. Accordingly, numerous studies on RO, ED, MD, HDH and MED technologies for solar-SSD systems have been compared in terms of their freshwater productivity, energy consumption and cost of produced water. Attention has also been paid to SSD systems powered via wind, geothermal, tidal and hybrid energies. It has been determined that the RO system holds the largest market share in both non-renewable (25 %) and renewable energy (40 %) systems. In addition, a comparison of low-cost SSD and LSD systems shows that SSD systems are economically competitive with LSD systems. The outlook for the future shows that the use of SSD systems powered using non-renewable energy is likely to decrease, except in areas where energy costs are very low. In addition, the use of solar-SSD systems is likely to increase, where systems that operate solely on wind or geothermal energy will be replaced by hybrid renewable energy systems.



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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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