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Contaminant Transfer in a Run-Around Membrane Energy Exchanger



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Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) constitute an important class of indoor air contaminants and they may cause adverse health effects for occupants in buildings. Indoor generated contaminants may be transferred between the supply and exhaust air streams of the building’s Heating, Ventilation and Air-conditioning (HVAC) system when air-to-air energy recovery devices are used. The run-around membrane energy exchanger (RAMEE) is a novel exchanger, which uses aqueous magnesium chloride (MgCl2) salt solution (34-35 wt%) as a liquid desiccant to transfer heat and moisture between remote supply and exhaust air streams. In the RAMEE, a gas-phase porous membrane is placed between the air stream and the liquid desiccant stream in each exchanger and the membrane prevents the salt solution from entering the air stream but still allows the transfer of water vapor through the semi-permeable membrane. In the RAMEE, VOCs may transfer between the exhaust and supply air streams due to (i) air leakage or (ii) due to dissolution of VOCs into the liquid desiccant in the exhaust exchanger and their subsequent evaporation into the air stream of the supply exchanger. These two transfer mechanisms were tested in the laboratory using two counter-cross-flow RAMEE prototypes (Prototype #4 and Prototype #6). Tests were conducted at different air and desiccant flow rates at AHRI standard summer and winter operating conditions. Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) was used as a tracer gas to test air leakage and toluene (C7H8) and formaldehyde (HCHO) were used to test VOC dissolution and transfer. From an external source, a known concentration of VOC was injected into the exhaust air inlet stream and the transfer fraction of VOC to the supply air stream was calculated. This transfer fraction or Exhaust Air Transfer Ratio (EATR) defined by ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 84 (2012) at steady state conditions was used to quantify and compare the transfer fraction of contaminants in both prototypes. The uncertainty in the transfer fraction was calculated and all the uncertainty bounds were calculated for 95% confidence interval. The transfer fraction of sulfur hexafluoride was 0.02 +/- 3.6% for both prototypes tested, which means that the air leakage between the air streams is negligible. The transfer of toluene, which has a low solubility in water, was less than the uncertainty in the measurement. EATR* values for toluene were 2.3-3.4% and the uncertainties were 3.4-3.6%. The transfer of formaldehyde between the exhaust and the supply air streams was the highest and the EATR* values just exceeded the uncertainties in the EATR* measurement. The highest EATR* values for the transfer of formaldehyde in Prototype #4 and Prototype #6 were 6.4 +/- 3.6% and 5.3 +/- 3.6%, respectively. At steady state, the measured EATR* values for both prototypes were insensitive to changes in the air flow rate, the liquid desiccant flow rate, the latent effectiveness and the environmental conditions but time delays to reach steady state were significant. These results imply that there is a negligible transfer of contaminants due to air leakage between the air streams, a negligible transfer of low water soluble VOCs (such as toluene), but possibly a small detectable transfer of very water soluble VOCs (such as formaldehyde) between the exhaust and supply air streams of the RAMEE.



Volatile Organic Compounds, Contaminant Transfer, Run-Around Membrane Energy Exchanger



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical Engineering


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