This work focused on enhancing the flux on hydrophobic polymeric membranes aimed for direct contact membrane distillation desalination (DCMD) process without compromising salt rejection efficiency. Successful coating of commercial porous poly-tetrafluoroethylene membranes with poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA) was achieved by solution dipping followed by a cross-linking step. The modified membranes were evaluated for their performance in DCMD, in terms of water flux and salt rejection. A series of different PVA concentration dipping solutions were used, and the results indicated that there was an optimum concentration after which the membranes became hydrophilic and unsuitable for use in membrane distillation. Best performing membranes were achieved under the specific experimental conditions, water flux 12.2 L·m-2·h-1 [LMH] with a salt rejection of 99.9%. Compared to the pristine membrane, the flux was enhanced by a factor of 2.7. The results seemed to indicate that introducing hydrophilic characteristics in a certain amount to a hydrophobic membrane could significantly enhance the membrane distillation (MD) performance without compromising salt rejection.
Keywords: desalination; hydrophobic-hydrophilic membrane; membrane distillation; porous materials.