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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Impact of humidity, temperature, and particulate fouling on membrane-based energy exchangers Engarnevis, Amin


Membrane-based energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) improve building energy efficiency by transporting heat and moisture between incoming and outgoing air streams. Although long-term studies are not available due to the recent implementation of this technology, there are preliminary indications that moisture transport might degrade with the extended operation, possibly as the result of exposure to air pollution or other environmental stresses. The scope of this dissertation is to quantify the influence of environmental factors on the permeation properties of current-generation composite membranes and the overall performance of ERV exchanger cores. First, the impact of particulate fouling was investigated via accelerated membrane- and core-level fouling experiments. The core-level experiments showed minimal impact on the effectiveness of ERV cores from coarse dust loadings. However, membrane-level examination with aerosol nanoparticles indicated that moisture transport through membranes was especially impaired when particles were hygroscopic or contained liquids. These results suggest that the optimal protection by filters and the orientation of the membrane would depend on the nature of the indoor and outdoor aerosols. Second, the effects of relative humidity and temperature on the transport of water vapor and CO₂ (as a surrogate for indoor air pollutants) was evaluated through a systematic study of some standard polymers suitable for ERV use. It was shown that the permeability and selectivity of membranes could vary up to an order of magnitude depending on the membrane material, the temperature and relative humidity on both feed and permeate sides of the membrane, as well as orientation in asymmetric composite membranes. A theoretical model for predicting permeability of composite membranes, based on a limited number of kinetic water vapor sorption tests of the selective coating polymer, was successfully developed and validated for a commercial membrane. This model was then coupled with a heat and mass transfer model of cross-flow ERV exchanger cores to interpret the membrane-level variations regarding ERV exchanger core performance. A study of the effects of outdoor air parameters showed that the effectiveness of ERV exchangers could increase or decrease significantly with outdoor air relative humidity, while outdoor air temperature had only a minimal influence on effectiveness parameters.

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