Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Major advance in using sunlight to produce steam without boiling water

Date:
November 19, 2012
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
Scientists have developed a revolutionary new way to use sunlight to produce steam and other vapors without heating an entire container of fluid to the boiling point. The advance has potential applications, especially in the poverty-stricken areas of the developing world, that include inexpensive, compact devices for purification of drinking water, sterilization of medical instruments and sanitizing sewage.

Scientists have developed a revolutionary new way to use sunlight to produce steam and other vapors without heating an entire container of fluid to the boiling point. The advance, reported in the American Chemical Society (ACS) journal ACS Nano, has potential applications, especially in the poverty-stricken areas of the developing world, that include inexpensive, compact devices for purification of drinking water, sterilization of medical instruments and sanitizing sewage.

"This research opens up a revolutionary new application of nanoparticles in solar energy," said Paul Weiss, Ph.D., editor-in-chief of ACS Nano. "The authors show that sunlight can be used to create steam with virtually no wasteful heating of the surrounding liquid. The potential societal benefits are staggering. They include more energy-efficient distillation of alcohol, a new and highly practical strategy for desalination and water purification and compact solar-driven sources of steam for sterilization and sanitation in resource-poor locations," said Weiss.

Naomi Halas, D.Sc., Peter Nordlander, Ph.D., and colleagues note in the report that metallic nanoparticles (so small that 1,000 would fit across the width of a human hair) absorb large amounts of light, resulting in a dramatic rise in their temperature. They are with Rice University. That ability to generate heat has fostered interest among scientists in using nanoparticles in a range of applications. These include photothermal treatment of certain forms of cancer, laser-induced drug release and nanoparticle-enhanced bioimaging.

Scientists in the past also explored the use of nanoparticles in solar energy applications. However, that research focused mainly on using nanoparticles to improve the ability of fluids to conduct heat. Until now, scientists had not reported on the use of nanoparticles, mixed into fluids, to capture sunlight, heat up and change the fluid into steam or other vapor.

The new report explains that nanoparticles illuminated by light can quickly rise to temperatures above 212 degrees Fahrenheit, the boiling point of water. Steam forms around the surface of each nanoparticle, billons of which can be placed in water or other fluids. Eventually, the vapor escapes from the particle, forming nanobubbles that float to the top of the surface and escape as water vapor or steam, vapors of ethanol in the case of distillation of alcohol for beverages or fuel, or other vapors.

It describes the use of this approach to measure and document solar steam generation in water solutions illuminated by sunlight containing different kinds of nanoparticles. One solution contained silicon dioxide/gold nanoparticles and another contained carbon nanoparticles. The nanoparticles began to produce steam within 5-20 seconds after shining sunlight into the solutions. The gold nanoparticle solution produced steam in small "microexplosive" bursts. The scientists used the gold nanoparticles to distill alcohol from water and got higher yields of alcohol than would have occurred by boiling the solution.

An impressive 82 percent of the sunlight absorbed by the nanoparticles went directly to generating steam. The overall energy efficiency of the steam generation process was 24 percent, and the scientists had made no effort to optimize the process.

"These results clearly indicate that solar steam generation is a process that has significant potential for use in a wide variety of energy- and sustainability-relevant applications," the report states. "Solar-driven, stand-alone waste processing or water purification systems could be developed based on this process. High-temperature (about 240 degrees F. and above) steam produced directly using sunlight could also be used for compact sterilization or sanitation purposes, from the processing of medical waste to the cleaning of medical or dental equipment, minimizing the resource, time and input chemical requirements demanded by current methods. With further development, this approach may be adaptable to higher pressures and other working fluids to drive turbines in solar energy harvesting applications. This approach may also be modified to harvest radiant energy from sources other than the sun, for instance, for the capture of waste energy from geothermal, residential or biological sources."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Oara Neumann, Alex Urban, Jared Day, Surbhi Lal, Peter Nordlander, Naomi J. Halas. Solar Vapor Generation Enabled by Nanoparticles. ACS Nano, 2012; 121119075227007 DOI: 10.1021/nn304948h

Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Major advance in using sunlight to produce steam without boiling water." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121119104835.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2012, November 19). Major advance in using sunlight to produce steam without boiling water. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121119104835.htm
American Chemical Society. "Major advance in using sunlight to produce steam without boiling water." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121119104835.htm (accessed April 25, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Friday, April 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Next Stop America for France's TGV?

Next Stop America for France's TGV?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 24, 2014) General Electric keeps quiet on reports it's in talks to buy French turbine and train maker Alstom. Ivor Bennett reports on what could be an embarrassing rumour for the French government, with business-friendly reforms proving a hard sell. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Obama Plays Soccer With Japanese Robot

Raw: Obama Plays Soccer With Japanese Robot

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) President Obama briefly played soccer with a robot during his visit to Japan on Thursday. The President has been emphasizing technology along with security concerns during his visit. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama Encourages Japanese Student-Scientists

Obama Encourages Japanese Student-Scientists

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) President Obama spoke with student innovators in Japan and urged them to take part in increased opportunities for student exchanges with the US. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

AFP (Apr. 23, 2014) The UN mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP) led a mine clearance demonstration on Wednesday in the UN-controlled buffer zone where demining operations are being conducted near the Cypriot village of Mammari. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

More Coverage


Super-Efficient Solar-Energy Technology: ‘Solar Steam’ So Effective It Can Make Steam from Icy Cold Water

Nov. 19, 2012 Scientists have unveiled a revolutionary new technology that uses nanoparticles to convert solar energy directly into steam. The new "solar steam" method is so effective it can even produce ... read more
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins