Water is one of the most stressed resources on the planet. The limited availability of fresh water and the high cost of transportation have led to an increased interest in water desalination technologies. The two main categories of desalination techniques are membrane desalination and thermal desalination. Membrane technologies include pressure driven and electrical driven membranes. On the other hand, thermal desalination includes: multi-effect desalination (MED), multi-stage flash (MSF) desalination, and mechanical vapor compression desalination.

Multi-effect desalination plants are usually made of a series of evaporators (also known as effects). In each effect, hot steam flows inside the tubes and evaporates the seawater that falls on the outside of the tubes. The vapor formed at each effect flows to the next effect and acts as the heating medium for the falling seawater. The prevailing flow mode of the falling seawater (i.e. droplet, jet, or sheet) influences heat and mass transfer as well as dry out in the evaporators of Multi-Effect Desalination (MED) plants.

The objective of this paper is to predict and discuss the prevailing falling film flow modes in the evaporators of MED plants, under different operating conditions. The paper demonstrates the transitional Reynolds numbers between the main falling film modes for seawater. This closes a gap in the literature where there is a dearth of mode transition data for seawater. The effect of fluid properties and tube geometry on the transitions is discussed in details. The accuracy of the predicted transitional Reynolds numbers is evaluated via uncertainty quantification techniques.

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