Origami inspires highly efficient solar steam generator

September 19, 2018, American Chemical Society
Origami inspires highly efficient solar steam generator
Credit: American Chemical Society

Water covers most of the globe, yet many regions still suffer from a lack of clean drinking water. If scientists could efficiently and sustainably turn seawater into clean water, a looming global water crisis might be averted. Now, inspired by origami, the Japanese art of paper folding, researchers have devised a solar steam generator that approaches 100 percent efficiency for the production of clean water. They report their results in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Solar steam generators produce clean by converting energy from the sun into heat, which evaporates seawater, leaving salts and other impurities behind. Then, the steam is collected and condensed into . Existing solar steam generators contain a flat photothermal material, which produces heat from absorbed light. Although these devices are fairly efficient, they still lose energy by heat dissipation from the material into the air. Peng Wang and colleagues wondered if they could improve energy efficiency by designing a three-dimensional photothermal material. They based their structure on the Miura fold of origami, which consists of interlocking parallelograms that form "mountains" and "valleys" within the 3-D structure.

The researchers made their solar steam generator by depositing a light-absorbing nanocarbon composite onto a cellulose membrane that was patterned with the Miura fold. They found that their 3-D device had a 50 percent higher evaporation rate than a flat 2-D device. In addition, the efficiency of the 3-D structure approached 100 percent, compared with 71 percent for the 2-D material. The researchers say that, compared to a flat surface, origami "valleys" capture the sunlight better so that less is lost to reflection. In addition, heat can flow from the valleys toward the cooler "mountains," evaporating water along the way instead of being lost to the air.

Explore further: Pine and poplar wood improve sunlight-driven water purification

More information: Seunghyun Hong et al. Nature-Inspired, 3D Origami Solar Steam Generator toward Near Full Utilization of Solar Energy, ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces (2018). DOI: 10.1021/acsami.8b07150

Related Stories

Artificial transpiration for solar water purification

June 2, 2017

Recently, solar steam and vapor generation has attracted attention as a promising prospect in desalination, sterilization and chemical purification. Tremendous progress has been achieved in absorber designs and thermal management. ...

New solarclave uses nanoparticles to create steam

July 9, 2013

(Phys.org) —A team of researchers at Rice University has developed a solar powered autoclave based on solar energy and metal and carbon nanoparticles. In their paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National ...

Why steam burns are particularly vicious

May 8, 2018

Even if the wound looks superficially harmless, steam burns must be cooled persistently. Empa researchers have now been able to show for the first time how hot steam achieves its vicious effect: It penetrates the upper skin ...

Recommended for you

Data storage using individual molecules

December 17, 2018

Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules ...

Progress in super-resolution microscopy

December 17, 2018

Going deeper and deeper into cells with the microscope; imaging the nucleus and other structures more and more accurately; getting the most detailed views of cellular multi-protein complexes: All of these are goals pursued ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.