Liquid desiccant dehumidification and regeneration process to meet cooling and freshwater needs of desert greenhouses
Ryan Lefers, Narasimha Murthy Srivatsa Bettahalli, Suzana P Nunes, Nina Fedoroff, Philip A Davies, TorOve Leiknes
Desal. Water. Treat., 57, 23430-23442 (2016)
Agriculture accounts for ~70% of freshwater usage worldwide. Seawater desalination alone cannot meet the growing needs for irrigation and food production, particularly in hot, desert environments. Greenhouse cultivation of high-value crops uses just a fraction of freshwater per unit of food produced when compared with open field cultivation. However, desert greenhouse producers face three main challenges: freshwater supply, plant nutrient supply, and cooling of the greenhouse. The common practice of evaporative cooling for greenhouses consumes large amounts of fresh water. In Saudi Arabia, the most common greenhouse cooling schemes are fresh water-based evaporative cooling, often using fossil groundwater or energy-intensive desalinated water, and traditional refrigeration-based direct expansion cooling, largely powered by the burning of fossil fuels. The coastal deserts have ambient conditions that are seasonally too humid to support adequate evaporative cooling, necessitating additional energy consumption in the dehumidification process of refrigeration-based cooling. This project evaluates the use of a combined-system liquid desiccant dehumidifier and membrane distillation unit that can meet the dual needs of cooling and freshwater supply for a greenhouse in a hot and humid environment.