Water and energy are two of the most vital resources for the socio-economic development and sustenance of humanity on earth. Desalination of seawater has been practiced for some decades and is a well-established means of water supply. However, this process consumes large amounts of energy and the global energy supply is also faced with some challenges. In this research, multi-effect desalination (MED) has been selected due to lower cost, lower operating temperature and efficient in terms of primary energy and electricity consumption compared to other thermal desalination systems. The motivation for this research is to address thermo-economics and dynamic behavior of different MED feed configurations with/without vapor compression (VC). A new formulation for the steady-state models was developed to simulate different MED systems. Adding a thermal vapor compressor (TVC) or mechanical vapor compression (MVC) unit to the MED system is also studied to show the advantage of this type of integration. For MED-TVC systems, results indicate that the parallel cross feed (PCF) configuration has better performance characteristics than other configurations. A similar study of MED-MVC systems indicates that the PCF and forward feed (FF) configurations require less work to achieve equal distillate production. Reducing the steam temperature supplied by the MVC unit leads to an increase in second law efficiency and a decrease in specific power consumption (SPC) and total water price. Following the fact that the MED may be exposed to fluctuations (disturbances) in input parameters during operation. Therefore, there is a requirement to analyze their transient behavior. In the current study, the dynamic model is developed based on solving the basic conservation equations of mass, energy, and salt. In the case of heat source disturbance, MED plants operating in the backward feed (BF) may be exposed to shut down due to flooding in the first effect. For all applied disturbances, the change in the brine level is the slowest compared to the changes in vapor temperature, and brine and vapor flow rates. For MED-TVC, it is recommended to limit the seawater cooling flow rate reduction to under 12% of the steady-state value to avoid dryout in the evaporators. A reduction in the motive steam flow rate and cooling seawater temperature of more than 20% and 35% of steady-state values, respectively, may lead to flooding in evaporators and plant shutdown. Simultaneous combinations of two different disturbances with opposing effects have only a modest effect on plant operation and they can be used to control and mitigate the flooding/drying effects caused by the disturbances. For the MED-MVC, the compressor work reduction could lead to plant shutdown, while a reduction in the seawater temperature will lead to a reduction in plant production and an increase in SPC.


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Graduation Date





Chow, Louis


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Degree Program

Mechanical Engineering









Release Date

May 2019

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)