Manufacture of membrane modules for cleaning pa fracking flow-back water using membrane distillation process

Principal investigator: Alparslan Oztekin, Nasser Vahedi

University: Lehigh University

Industry partners: Solarflux Energy Technologies, Inc.

Clean water and its availability for millions of people on the planet are receiving increasing attention. PA has an urgent need for cleaning millions of gallons of fracking wastewater. Membrane Distillation (MD) is an emerging technology that can treat the fracking wastewater in a cost-effective way. MD uses hydrophobic membranes placed between feed (contaminated water) and permeate streams that allow only water vapor to pass through. Separated vapor will condense to complete the filtrations/distillation process. Membranes used in MD processes are mechanically weak and flimsy and thus need to be incorporated into modules that include strengtheners made of nylon. A membrane model is thus the core of any MD system, and the manufacture of such modules is the primary focus of the current proposed work. Lehigh University has significant experience and expertise with MD systems and is collaborating with a PA manufacturer of solar point concentrators, Solarflux, Inc., for this manufacturing proposal. Membranes with 75% porosity, with low tortuosity or diffusive capabilities (1.4-3.0) and low thermal conductivity (0.06 W/m-K), will be investigated. The proposed work will manufacture membrane modules that will be used for solar-assisted MD to clean fracking wastewater. Available flat membranes and/or hollow fibers will be used in making up the membrane modules that will be used for MD systems capable of generating clean water. The proposed work includes the design of membrane modules that can be used by Direct Contact Membrane Distillation (DCMD) as well as Air Gap Membrane Distillation (AGMD). Manufacturing procedures developed in this work will be compatible for use with solar assisted MD. The work proposed here will establish PA as a manufacturing center for membrane modules for membrane distillation, create more jobs, and clean fracking wastewater.