Researchers at the University of Buffalo are modernizing the traditional concept of using solar energy to evaporate and purify water. This project, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), is a collaboration between UB, Fudan University in China and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They have launched a startup named Sunny Clean Water which aims to integrate the technology in a solar-powered water purifier.
A sheet of carbon-dipped paper folded into a triangular shape is the main component of this solar still, absorbing and vaporizing to generate clean water with efficiency. The bottom edges of the paper are dipped in water to soak up the liquid like a napkin.
At the same time, the carbon-coated paper ensures proper evaporation by utilizing almost all the solar energy during the evaporation process. Both the processes help generate clean water with minimum investment and energy loss.
The lead researcher Qiaoqiang Gan said;
Usually, when solar energy is used to evaporate water, some of the energy is wasted as heat is lost to the surrounding environment. This makes the process less than 100 percent efficient. Our system has a way of drawing heat in from the surrounding environment, allowing us to achieve near-perfect efficiency.
What makes this solar still different from others is low-cost materials and high efficiency of vaporization rates.
Researchers evaporated the equivalent of 2.2 liters of water per hour for every square meter of area illuminated by the regular sun, which is higher than the theoretical upper limit of 1.68 liters.
This solar still can be helpful in providing drinking water in remote areas with limited resources, or places hit by natural disaster.
Source: University of Buffalo