EPSRC DTP PhD studentship: Development of Solar Powered Membrane Desalination Unit

University of Exeter - College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences

Main supervisor:  Prof. Tapas Mallick (University of Exeter)
Co-supervisor:  Dr. Senthil Sundaram (University of Exeter)

Membrane desalination (MD) is a thermally driven water purification process with an operating temperature of 40 to 80˚C. The solar powered MD is attractive not only to water desalination but also to food industries, medical fields, and to environmental applications such as the removal of benzene and heavy metals from water. This proposal intends to build a system with solar powered MD for water purification. This is a stand-alone system which is combining concentrated photovoltaics thermal (CPV/T) and suitable reverse osmosis pump with smart controller to provide potable water from salt water and/or brackish-water. The system will be designed to operate at a temperature of up to 80˚C which is a lower operating temperature than that of conventional distillation technologies. It also operates under a lower hydrostatic pressure than that of other membrane processes. This will give economically competitive technology in remote locations especially in India. 

The overall aim of the project is to develop and demonstrate a reilable, high efficient and cost effective MD desalination system based on concentrated photovoltaic and thermal (CPV/T) energy collectors, with a combined electrical/thermal efficiency of over 75%. The targeted efficiency improvement for the desalination unit is predicted to be between 2% to 4%. Following tasks will be undertaken during the studentship:

  • Task 1: Undertake state-of-the-art literature review for solar powered desalination technologies (0-6 months)
  • Task 2: Carryout several experiments of nano-porous membrane for different particle combination and its stability, such as TiO2, ZnO, and Ag samples (0-12 months)
  • Task 3: Improve the existing integrated model for heat transfer through the nano-porous membrane (6-20 months)
  • Task 4: Setup an experimental base for MD integrated CPV system for wide range of weather conditions (18-30 months), including outdoor performance analysis for three months at the Solar Lab, Penryn Campus.
  • Task 5: Numerical and experimental model validation and parametric analysis (30-36 months)
  • Task 6: Thesis writing and PhD submission towards, viva and required amendments to be before end of the project.

The candidate will have several trainings such as numerical analysis using COMSOL and Matlab for heat transfer analysis of the MD unit, and also will have experimental techniques such as SEM/TEM analysis for porosity measurements, solar simulators and quantum efficiency equipments for photovoltaic performance measurement and adaptive heat transfer measurements.

Applicants will need to have the ability to work both simulation and experimentation.

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South West England