Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 February 2020

Masdar and MIT researchers develop device that makes steam from sunlight

Researchers have developed a device that floats on water, which converts 20 per cent of the solar energy captured into steam at 100º Celsius.
The device converts 20 per cent of the solar energy captured into steam at 100° Celsius. Courtesy Masdar
The device converts 20 per cent of the solar energy captured into steam at 100° Celsius. Courtesy Masdar

Researchers at Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have collaborated to create a device that makes steam from the sun, all without the use of solar panels.

Using bubble wrap and plastic foam, the team of researchers developed a solar-conversion system that floats on water. The device converts 20 per cent of the solar energy captured into steam.

“The technology is particularly suited for the UAE’s dusty climate, as it fully uses the entire spectrum of sunlight for thermal applications rather than just the direct portion, which can be hindered by aerosols,” said TieJun Zhang, an assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering at Masdar Institute.

However, the technology is in its nascent stages, according to Steve Griffiths, the vice president for research and associate provost of Masdar Institute. While the device has been proven to generate steam, there will need to be further research and development on the ways in which it can be utilised.

“Right now this is a great scientific finding in the direction of applications that we really care about, and now we just need to put the engineering behind it to figure out the market to make this applicable,” he said.

The first deployment and commercialisation will come after researchers pinpoint the area in which this will be best used, whether it is in desalination or even medical sterilisation.

However, another winning factor with the device is the absence of solar panels, which on average make up about 30 to 40 per cent of the total cost for solar photovoltaic projects.

The technology is composed of a floating sponge that has a light absorber, which is in between bubble wrap and foam. The receiver soaks up water and evaporates it, producing a steady flow of steam.

“This project is an excellent demonstration of how international collaboration and use-inspired research can yield cutting-edge scientific findings that have direct application to the sectors that are at the core of the UAE’s continued evolution toward an innovation and knowledge-based economy,” Mr Griffiths said.

lgraves@thenational.ae

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Updated: August 30, 2016 04:00 AM

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