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Improving the efficiency of solar desalination

By Paul Grad |

Researchers from Nanjing University (Nanjing, China; www.nju.edu.cn) have reported a solar desalination device that is claimed to be much more efficient than existing devices. While typical solar-powered desalinators are not very efficient — only about 30 to 45% of the energy they take from sunlight results in water vapor generation — the new device has an efficiency of 80%. The conventional design of direct absorber bulk water contact has intrinsic thermal loss through bulk water. The new device’s high efficiency is made possible by a confined, two-dimensional water path. Also, due to minimized heat loss, the high efficiency of solar desalination is independent of the water quantity and can be maintained without thermal insulation of the container. A foldable graphene oxide film, fabricated by a scalable process, serves as efficient solar absorber, vapor channel and thermal insulator. The graphene oxide film is not in direct contact with bulk water, but is physically separated by a thermal insulator (polystyrene foam) to suppress parasitic heat loss. A 2-D water path is enabled by a thin layer of cellulose wrapped over the surface of the thermal insulator. The entire structure can float on the water surface, with only the…
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