Scientists at the University of Texas have developed a revolutionary new technology that uses metal nanoparticles to convert solar energy directly into steam . A technology that could be used in developing countries for the implementation of low-cost devices for purification of drinking water and sanitation or disinfection of wastewater.
Called by the researchers as “solar steam”, it would be a method so effective that even water vapor can produce ice . A new technology that would have an overall energy efficiency of 24%. In comparison, photovoltaic solar panels usually only have a comprehensive energy efficiency by about 15%.
And how is it done? The researchers explain that the tiny nanoparticles are able to absorb a large amount of light , at which time there is a significant temperature increase. This the reason that science has started several investigations for the application of nanoparticles in different areas.
We think that this technology is capable of raising the temperature to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, which is commonly known as boiling water, quickly. Thus, the steam is formed on the surface of each nanoparticle as these can be converted into different liquids or water. The final process occurs when the steam leaves the particle, creating floating on the surface nanobubbles and escaping as vapor.
According to the researchers, it is hoped that the first applications of this new technology for the purification of water and sanitation in different developing countries . For Naomi Halas, principal investigator of the project:
This is much more than electricity. With this technology we are starting to think about solar thermal energy in a completely different way. We will heat water to heat a macro scale nanoscale.
Our particles are very small, even smaller than the wavelength of light. Which means you have a very small surface area for heat dissipation. This allows us to generate intense heat steam locally, and on the surface of the particle, and the idea of steam generation at the local level is really exciting.
And is that steam is one of the most commonly used fluids in the industrial system in the world. About 90% of electricity is produced from the steam. Not only that, the steam is also used to sterilize surgical instruments and medical waste, to prepare food or water purification. A revolutionary technology that hopes implemented in the coming months in those enclaves that need it most.