Author Identifier

Abdellah Shafieian (Dastjerdi)

Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Engineering

First Supervisor

Associate Professor Mehdi Khiadani


Lack of fresh water has turned into one of the major challenges of the world in the present century. Desalination of brackish or seawater has been proven to be one of the best solutions to cope with this global challenge. Among all the desalination methods, Membrane Distillation (MD) is well known as a cost effective and profitable technology for treating saline water. However, higher energy consumption compared to other separation techniques has been reported as MD’s main drawback. That is why the application of solar energy to provide the thermal energy requirement of MD modules has been the focal point of research in this field in recent years. Despite many studies and efforts that have been conducted to date, solar driven membrane based

systems have still many undiscussed aspects. Integrating solar energy and membrane technology is not yet a straightforward matter and has many opportunities for technical and economic improvements. Utilizing new solar technologies, their combination with thermal driven membrane modules, and trying to improve thermal and overall efficiency of this integration can be the bedrock of novel researches. Furthermore, most of the previous studies and research activities have been focused on desalination systems, while the proposed systems have been either inefficient or energy intensive, and other sources for improving water quality such as wastewater is completely under-researched. That is why, this study proposed a novel integrated solar membrane-based desalination and wastewater treatment system taking advantage of technologies such as heat pipes, vacuum tubes, and direct contact membrane distillation (DCMD) modules.

A theoretical study was considered to firstly investigate the performance and feasibility of the proposed system and secondly to obtain the optimum physical and operational characteristics of both solar and desalination systems. The theoretical analysis was performed by using appropriate energy and exergy equations which were solved in Matlab software. Heat and mass transfer equations along with energy and mass balance equations were considered in this study. A new multi-step theoretical approach was proposed and developed to model the DCMD unit, while the thermal resistance network method was applied in the simulation of the solar system including vacuum glasses, heat pipes, and manifold.

Based on the optimum data obtained from the mathematical models, an experimental rig was designed, manufactured, and tested under different climatic and operational conditions. The system was controlled using a central control unit including a control unit, a National Instrument Data Acquisition (NI-DAQ) system, and a power unit. An application program interface (API) was programmed in the LabVIEW 2014 software to record the data at 10- second intervals. Climatic data including solar radiation, ambient temperature, and wind velocity were collected from the weather station located at Edith Cowan University, Joondalup Campus which is located 23 km north of Perth business district.

The comparison of the theoretical and experimental results revealed the capability of the developed model to accurately predict the performance of the proposed system. In addition, the optimum characteristics of the system, including the optimum solar collector’s surface area, feed and permeate streams mass flow rates and temperatures, were determined. The results revealed that the application of this nanofluid as the solar working fluid along with implementing a variable mass flow rate technique significantly improved the overall efficiency of the solar system. Sodium Dodecyl BenzeneSulfonate (SDBS) at 0.1 wt.% was the optimum concentration of SDBS for 0.05 wt.% Al2O3/DI water nanofluid exhibiting the highest stability and thermal conductivity enhancement. The results also showed the high dependency of the DCMD module to the physical (e.g., length) and operational (e.g., feed and permeate mass flow rates) parameters, while its performance was independent of salinity. The highest freshwater production rates in hot and cold seasons were observed to be 3.81 and 2.1 L/m2h, respectively. Moreover, the maximum gained output ratios of the system were around 0.79 and 0.58 in hot and cold seasons, respectively.

The results also indicated that the gained output ratio and overall efficiency of the system improved upon application of a cooling unit in the permeate flow loop of the system, indicating the effectiveness of the proposed configuration. In addition, the freshwater production increased up to 37% when the system was equipped with a cooling unit. However, the economic feasibility of implementing the cooling unit needs further investigations. Moreover, the proposed system effectively removed the contaminating metals from wastewater by showing the removal percentage of 96, 89, 96, 100, 100, and 94% for Fe, Mn, Cu, Na, K, and Ca, respectively.

Access Note

Access to Chapter 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, and Appendices A, B, and C of this thesis is not available.

See list of Related Publications.