Project Name: Ultra-Compact and Efficient Heat Exchanger for Solar Desalination with Unprecedented Scaling Resistance
Funding Opportunity: Solar Desalination
SETO Subprogram: Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power
Location: Urbana, IL
SETO Award Amount: $1,582,159
Awardee Cost Share:  $397,306
Principal Investigator: Anthony Jacobi

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and partners at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Isotherm Inc. will design, develop, and test a new heat exchanger for use in thermal desalination processes. The team will create and use materials with surface shapes and structures that will help prevent fouling and corrosion in temperatures above 200° Celsius. The goal of the project is to increase thermal hydraulic efficiency by at least 150% over current state-of-the-art technology, which can withstand temperatures of only 65° Celsius.


To develop a new heat exchanger, the team will first study multiple heat exchanger configurations to optimize the surface geometry and the manufacturing process. They will develop materials that have the thermophysical properties needed to prevent fouling and corrosion and design new heat-transfer surface characteristics for them. The team will cost-effectively produce these materials through additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing. Then they will conduct a techno-economic analysis that will lead to a heat exchanger suitable for large-scale manufacturing.  


The goal is to develop a compact, low-cost heat-exchanger technology specific to the solar desalination process that improves thermal hydraulic performance. The team will design and develop strong, corrosion-resistant materials that have high thermal-conductivity and don’t require frequent cleaning. This will enable the operation of heat exchangers at higher temperatures, which increases thermal efficiency and reduces the cost of water desalination.