Performance Analysis and Limiting Parameters of Cross-flow Membrane-based Liquid-desiccant Air Dehumidifiers

Document Type


Publication Date



To dehumidify a humid air stream, existing air conditioning (AC) systems substantially overcool the outdoor humid air below its dew point, thereby significantly reducing energy efficiency. Directly capturing humidity, membrane-based liquid-desiccant dehumidification systems separate sensible and latent cooling (SSLC) loads and thus offer a promising pathway for a high-performance AC solution. Design of an energy-efficient SSLC-AC system, however, rests largely on detailed understating of the dehumidification process. While some studies have identified the dehumidification process mainly depends on membrane characteristics, other studies have argued that the process is limited by desiccant liquid or alternatively air thermo-hydraulic physics for typical humid climate conditions. The present study examines performance and physics of the membrane-based liquid-desiccant dehumidification process over a wide range of climate conditions through a novel 3D, two-phase, multi-species CFD model. Decoupling the thermodynamic and hydraulic effects, the study reveals that the dehumidification rate is a linear function of the water vapor pressure potential (J=α ΔP) summarizing the system's thermodynamic state. The slope of the curve (i.e., α) depends on hydraulic transport characteristics of the membrane pores, air stream, and desiccant solution. More importantly, it was found that the air dehumidification process is mainly limited by the air-side transport physics for thin liquid-desiccant films and commonly used porous superhydrophobic membranes. Additionally, results show that, depending on ambient/desiccant conditions and physical dehumidifier characteristics, energy effectiveness and dehumidification rate vary from 13 to 34% and from 0.13 to 1.4 g m − 2 s − 1, respectively. Therefore, the present study allows to efficiently design future SSLC-based AC systems exhibiting high performance energy metrics.

Publication Title

International Journal of Refrigeration