Membrane distillation (MD) is a relatively new and underdeveloped separation process which can be classified as a green technology. However, in order to investigate its dark points, sensitivity analysis and optimization studies are critical. In this work, a number of MD experiments were performed for concentrating glucose syrup using a sweeping gas membrane distillation (SGMD) process as a critical step in bioethanol production. The experimental design method was the Taguchi orthogonal array (an L9
orthogonal one) methodology. The experimental results showed the effects of various operating variables, including temperature (45, 55, and 65 °C), flow rate (200, 400, and 600 ml/min) and glucose concentration (10, 30, and 50 g/l) of the feed stream, as well as sweeping gas flow rate (4, 10, and 16 standard cubic feet per hour (SCFH)) on the permeate flux. The main effects of the operating variables were reported. An ANOVA analysis showed that the most and the least influenced variables were feed temperature and feed flow rate, each one with 62.1% and 6.1% contributions, respectively. The glucose rejection was measured at 99% for all experiments. Results indicated that the SGMD process could be considered as a versatile and clean process in the sugar concentration step of the bioethanol production.
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