Wickability-optimized textured liquid-desiccant air dehumidifiers for independent moisture management in energy-efficient buildings

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Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


Liquid-desiccant-based air conditioning systems are envisioned to enable independent humidity management, thereby improving the energy efficiency of future buildings. Existing liquid-desiccant-based air conditioning concepts, however, suffer from a poor liquid flow distribution deteriorating moisture removal rate. They are consequently flooded with the liquid-desiccant solution, which significantly degrades the energy efficiency of the dehumidification process. Here, the capillary forces and wickability effect of textured air dehumidifier surfaces are altered to minimize the liquid-desiccant flow rate of the fully wetted state, thereby transforming the physics of interfacial desiccant flow distribution. Consequently, the wickability-optimized air dehumidifier surface maximizes both moisture removal rate and dehumidification energy efficiency. It was interestingly found that the length scale of a textured air dehumidifier surface concept is optimized at an intermediate pattern density. Dry solid-air menisci appear at length scales exceeding the optimum pattern distance while the effective liquid–air interfacial area is reduced at smaller length scales, both of which degrade the moisture removal rate. At the optimum pattern density, the effective liquid–air interfacial area increases with the solution flow rate, thereby increasing the dehumidification rate. At a water vapor pressure potential of 3 kPa and a solution flow rate of 2.8 g/s, experimental results indicated a moisture removal rate of 0.16 g/m2-s for a textured surface concept with a capillary length scale of 3 mm, a 28% improvement compared with that of smooth-plate dehumidifier surfaces. A high moisture removal rate of the textured surface at a low desiccant flow rate led to a high thermal efficiency of 0.75 at a water vapor pressure potential of 5.6 kPa and a LiBr flow rate of 2.8 g/s. The insights gained from the present study accelerate the development of advanced textured surface concepts for next-generation liquid-desiccant-based air dehumidification systems offering independent humidity management for future energy-efficient buildings.

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Energy Conversion and Management