A New Technology Converts Solar Energy Into Vapor (+VIDEO)
Currently almost 90 percent of the world’s electricity is produced from steam turbines. Researchers from the Rice University have worked out an effective method of turning about 80 percent of the energy coming from the sun into steam. Their solar steam device excels photovoltaic solar panels in energy efficiency; it can even produce steam from the ice-cold water. To convert solar energy directly into steam the technology uses light-absorbing nanoparticles: being plunged and then illuminated, these particles quickly reach temperatures above the boiling point of water. Then they quickly disperse heat through their tiny surface area, which almost instantly results in 150°C (300°F) steam generated right at the surface of the particle. This technology might be of great help for the developing countries in sterilizing medical waste and surgical instruments, preparing food and purifying water. Among the other possible applications could be powering hybrid air-conditioning and heating systems that run off of sunlight during the day and off of electricity at night. This innovative project was awarded a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a small-scale system for treating human waste in areas lacking sewer systems or electricity.