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Active One-to-One Research Projects

Mechanical Engineering

Multifunctional Nanoporous Evaporator for an Efficient Water Desalination System

Professor Evelyn Wang

Professor Faisal AlMarzooqi
PI at Masdar Institute


Typically, photovoltaics (PVs) are used to drive a solar water desalination system (i.e., reverse osmosis, electrodialysis, etc.). However, PVs can convert only about 10-35% of the total solar radiation to electricity, leading to an inefficient overall system. This project team takes an alternative approach, focusing on developing a compact highly efficient solar-driven combined power and desalination system. The overall system is envisioned to be comprised of PVs to generate renewable power and a thermally driven evaporative desalination system.

Specifically, this project focuses on the development of a nanoporous evaporator based water desalination unit, a key component towards realizing the overall system. The evaporator design is targeted to have: 1) high desalination rates, 2) spectral selectivity to maximize the absorption of solar radiation to the evaporator, and 3) anti-fouling to mitigate significant clogging and decreases in efficiency over time. Towards this goal, the project will fabricate and experimentally characterize various membranes with different pore dimensions and porosities in a range of materials including alumina anodiscs as model membrane and polymeric membranes towards a low-cost approach. The project will also explore various solar absorber coatings that can effectively maximize the heating of the membrane with minimal losses. The project will investigate how anti-fouling can be achieved through the changes of surface energetics via modifying the surface design of nano-scale features. High-fidelity models will be developed to facilitate the optimizations. To incorporate the evaporator into the desalination unit, the project will also explore and incorporate condenser designs to efficiently collect the fresh water.


This project is highly relevant to the interests of Khalifa University of Science and Technology and the UAE. First, this approach directly addresses the development of technologies for sustainability. The nanoporous evaporator offers a new approach towards low cost and efficient water desalination. Second, the technology combines the production of clean water and energy, both important needs of the UAE. This approach serves as a unique opportunity to develop a compact and efficient co-generation unit for households and remote areas with limited infrastructure. Finally, the project will help train and nurture Emirate and other students in the region who can contribute importantly to the development of clean water and energy infrastructure.