New spongelike structure converts solar energy into steam

A new material structure developed at MIT generates steam by soaking up the sun.

The structure — a layer of graphite flakes and an underlying carbon foam — is a porous, insulating material structure that floats on water. When sunlight hits the structure’s surface, it creates a hotspot in the graphite, drawing water up through the material’s pores, where it evaporates as steam. The brighter the light, the more steam is generated.

The new material is able to convert 85 percent of incoming solar energy into steam — a significant improvement over recent approaches to solar-powered steam generation. What’s more, the setup loses very little heat in the process, and can produce steam at relatively low solar intensity. This would mean that, if scaled up, the setup would likely not require complex, costly systems to highly concentrate sunlight.

Hadi Ghasemi, a postdoc in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, says the spongelike structure can be made from relatively inexpensive materials — a particular advantage for a variety of compact, steam-powered applications.

“Steam is important for desalination, hygiene systems, and sterilization,” says Ghasemi, who led the development of the structure. “Especially in remote areas where the sun is the only source of energy, if you can generate steam with solar energy, it would be very useful.”

Comments (0)

This post does not have any comments. Be the first to leave a comment below.


Post A Comment

You must be logged in before you can post a comment. Login now.

Featured Product

OMNISTAR GAS ANALYZER - Fast accurate analysis from % to sub-ppm in a compact, turnkey benchtop system.

OMNISTAR GAS ANALYZER - Fast accurate analysis from % to sub-ppm in a compact, turnkey benchtop system.

The Pfeiffer Vacuum OmniStar benchtop analysis system offers you a compact footprint, powerful software and Ethernet connectivity. It's the optimum solution for many real-time gas analysis applications. With the OmniStar, Pfeiffer Vacuum offers you a complete solution for gas analysis, in chemical processes, semiconductor industry, metallurgy, fermentation, catalysis, laser technology and environmental analysis. The turnkey OmniStar gas analysis system consists of heated, temperature-regulated gas inlet system, Quadrupole mass spectrometer, a dry diaphragm vacuum pump and HiPace turbopump. Unlike competing methods such as FTIR, OmniStar is suitable for qualitative and quantitative analysis of most gases.