Safe and drinkable water sources are becoming more and more scarce as the population increases. Though ocean water levels are rising, all of that is salty water that is unfit for drinking. But what if we evaporate it? These researchers used this concept to develop a way to get clean drinking water from sunlight.
We sure do need more freshwater. Even right now over 1.1 billion people all over the world lack any access to fresh water and over 2.7 billion find enough water for even a month. According to Haolan Xu, an associate professor at the University of South Australia, “In recent years, there has been a lot of attention on using solar evaporation to create fresh drinking water, but previous techniques have been too inefficient to be practically useful”.
Xu and his team of researchers have found a solution. Both to the water problem and also to the problem of efficiency when it comes to solar evaporation. By employing the use of sustainable materials they’ve devised a cost-effective and highly efficient photothermal structure.
According to Xu, “We have overcome those inefficiencies, and our technology can now deliver enough fresh water to support many practical needs at a fraction of the cost of existing technologies like reverse osmosis”. The structure is able to sit on the surface of a water source and convert sunlight to heat energy. He added that “Previously many of the experimental photothermal evaporators were basically two dimensional; they were just a flat surface, and they could lose 10 to 20 percent of solar energy to the bulk water and the surrounding environment”.
According to the researchers, their structure not only assures 100 percent efficiency but also draws up to 170 percent energy from the water and environment. Their technique prevents the loss of solar energy. Xu concluded by saying that “We are the first researchers in the world to extract energy from the bulk water during solar evaporation and use it for evaporation, and this has helped our process become efficient enough to deliver between 20 and 30 liters of freshwater per square meter per day”.
The technology has a lot of potential to provide a long term solution to the water problem. Here’s hoping they’re able to make a commercialized product and adapt to more situations as well.
“Also, because it is so simple and requires virtually no maintenance, there is no technical expertise needed to keep it running and upkeep costs are minimal”.