Enhanced Humidification–Dehumidification (HDH) Systems for Sustainable Water Desalination

Mauro Luberti, Mauro Capocelli

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Water scarcity is a pressing global issue driving the need for efficient and sustainable water reuse and desalination technologies. In the last two decades, humidification–dehumidification (HDH) has emerged as a promising method for small-scale and decentralized systems. This paper presents a comprehensive review of recent scientific literature highlighting key advancements, challenges, and potential future directions of HDH research. Because the HDH process suffers from low heat and mass transfer, as well as thermodynamic limitations due to the mild operating conditions, this work indicates three main strategies for HDH enhancement: (1) Advanced Heat and Mass Transfer Techniques, (2) Integration with Other Technologies, and (3) Optimization of System Operative Conditions. Particularly for advanced HDH systems, the reference GOR values exceed 3, and certain studies have demonstrated the potential to achieve even higher values, approaching 10. In terms of recovery ratio, there appear to be no significant process constraints, as recycling the brine prepared in innovative schemes can surpass values of 50%. Considering electricity costs, the reference range falls between 1 and 3 kWh m–3. Notably, multi-stage processes and system couplings can lead to increased pressure drops and, consequently, higher electricity costs. Although consistent data are lacking, a baseline SEC reference value is approximately 360 kJ kg–1, corresponding to 100 kWh m–3. For comparable SEC data, it is advisable to incorporate both thermal and electric inputs, using a reference power plant efficiency of 0.4 in converting thermal duty to electrical power. When considering the utilization of low-temperature solar and waste heat, the proposed exergy-based comparison of the process is vital; this perspective reveals that a low-carbon HDH desalination domain, with II-law efficiencies surpassing 0.10, can be achieved.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6352
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023


  • bubble column
  • humidification–dehumidification
  • low-carbon desalination
  • solar energy
  • vacuum
  • variable pressure
  • waste heat
  • water adsorption


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