Membrane Distillation – A Sustainable and Renewable Energy Driven Water Reclamation Process

Dr. Lijo Francis
Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute, Qatar

Membrane distillation (MD) is a thermally driven membrane-based separation process, considered as one of the technologies that are emerging as an alternative desalination processes. MD utilizes a hydrophobic, microporous membrane as a contactor to achieve separation by liquid–vapor equilibrium. The pre-heated feed solution is brought into contact with the membrane which allows only the water vapor to go through the membrane pores so that it condenses on the other side of the membrane. This vapor is driven across the membrane by the difference in the partial vapor pressure maintained at the two sides of the membrane. Conventional desalination technologies such as multi-stage flash distillation (MSF) and reverse osmosis (RO) are not only highly energy intensive processes but also they require huge investment cost and large footprint; whereas MD operates at ambient pressure and lower temperatures (30–70 ᵒC) so that any low grade heat source (solar, waste heat, and geothermal) can be sufficient for its operation. Moreover the scalability, inexpensive polymeric materials for the installation, and theoretically 100 % salt rejection attract the MD as an attractive desalination process. The talk will give an insight on the emerging attractive Membrane Distillation (MD) technology with respect to its engineering, process development and implementation from the lab scale to the pilot scale.


Dr. Lijo Francis, currently working as a Scientist at Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI), Doha, Qatar. Prior to this position, he was working as a Research Scientist at the Water Desalination and Reuse Center (WDRC), King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He has two Bachelor’s Degree and two Master’s Degree. Dr. Francis, completed his PhD in Chemical Sciences and Technology from the University of Genova, Italy in 2010. Then he pursued his postdoctoral research at the National University of Singapore (NUS, Singapore) and at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST, Saudi Arabia).
Dr. Lijo Francis has received several renowned awards including Young Scientist Award (from Lead’s University, UK in collaboration with Calicut University, India in 2009), Best Research Paper Award from European Desalination Society (EDS 2014, Cyprus), Young Academics Award from European Membrane Society (EMS 2015, Italy) and couple of Seed Fund Awards for his outstanding research contributions to the Membrane Science and Renewable Energy Driven Water Reclamation Processes. Dr. Francis is the author of 7 U.S/European patent applications and more than 80 international conference/journal research papers.