Exergy analyses are essential tools for the performance evaluation of water desalination and other separation systems, including those featuring membrane distillation (MD). One of the challenges in the commercialization of MD technologies is its substantial heat demand, especially for large scale applications. Identifying such heat flows in the system plays a crucial role in pinpointing the heat loss and thermal integration potential by the help of exergy analysis. This study presents an exergetic evaluation of air-gap membrane distillation (AGMD) systems at a laboratory and pilot scale. A series of experiments were conducted to obtain thermodynamic data for the water streams included in the calculations. Exergy efficiency and destruction for two different types of flat-plate AGMD were analyzed for a range of feed and coolant temperatures. The bench scale AGMD system incorporating condensation plate with more favorable heat conductivity contributed to improved performance parameters including permeate flux, specific heat demand, and exergy efficiency. For both types of AGMD systems, the contributions of the major components involved in exergy destruction were identified. The result suggested that the MD modules caused the highest fraction of destructions followed by re-concentrating tanks.
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