On the Importance of the Heat and Mass Transfer Resistances in Internally-Cooled Liquid Desiccant Dehumidifiers and Regenerators

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Liquid desiccant heat and mass exchangers are a promising technology for efficient humidity control in buildings. Many researchers have investigated these exchangers, often using numerical models to predict their performance. However, there is a lack of information in the literature on the magnitude of the heat and mass transfer resistances, both for the dehumidifier (which absorbs moisture from the air) and the regenerator (which heats the liquid desiccant to re-concentrate it). This article focuses on internally-cooled, 3-fluid exchangers in a parallel plate geometry. Water heats or cools a desiccant across a plate, and the desiccant absorbs or releases water into an airstream through a membrane. A sensitivity analysis was used to estimate the importance of each of the heat and mass transfer resistances (air, membrane, desiccant, plate, water), and how it changes with different design geometries. The results show that, for most designs, the latent and sensible heat transfer of the dehumidifier is dominated by the air mass transfer resistance and air heat transfer resistance, respectively. The air mass transfer resistance is also important for the regenerator, but much less so; the change in the desiccant equilibrium humidity ratio due to a change in either temperature or desiccant mass fraction is much higher at the regenerator's higher temperatures. This increases the importance of (1) getting heat from the water to the desiccant/membrane interface, and (2) diffusing salt ions quickly away from the desiccant/membrane interface. The membrane heat transfer and water heat transfer resistances were found to be the least important. These results can help inform decisions about what simplifying assumptions to make in numerical models, and can also help in designing these exchangers by understanding which resistances are most important.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)324-340
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5500-70557


  • Air conditioning
  • Dehumidification
  • Heat and mass exchanger
  • Heat and mass transfer
  • Liquid desiccant
  • Membrane
  • Modeling


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