A COMPACT device that uses waste heat shed by solar cells to purify water could one day change the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the globe
These two resources are conveniences many of us take for granted. But more than 780 million people around the world currently lack easy access to clean water. Even
Perhaps even more importantly, there’s the Catch-22 relationship between clean water and electricity we rarely give much thought to. Limited access to relatively
Fields of solar panels can bring electricity to populations in remote, dry places. But hosing them down with water is a good way to keep them clear of dust, which is not easily done in such arid locations
Unsurprisingly, linking photovoltaics with water decontamination isn’t novel. A US-based start-up called Zero Mass Water uses solar energy to condense liquid water absorbed straight out of
The engineers of this latest device designed their cell with efficiency in mind, folding the components for distillation under a fairly standard silicon photovoltaic cell in a way that doesn’t impact on the cell’s energy output
A fraction of the remaining solar radiation becomes thermal energy, which would usually go to waste. That heat is instead absorbed by a pancake-like stack of hydrophobic membranes shuffled between materials selected to assist evaporation and condensation
By stacking the membranes this way, the researchers found they could improve on conventional solar stills, potentially producing about five times the amount of clean water
Last year, solar energy accounted for more than 500 gigawatts of the world’s electricity. By 2025, the researchers think we might come close to doubling this figure
It’s an exciting
For example, desalination also has the potential to service large populations, but only if the energy is available. In 2016,
What’s more, the power required to separate out that salt demands a fraction of the very fresh water it produces.
With the US looking down the barrel of major water shortages in coming decades, the water-energy nexus will hit home like never before.
Solar power generation method converts energy from the sun into electricity. It uses solar panels that are often arranged on a building or concentrated in solar farms to facilitate a reaction that converts sun’s light radiation into electricity.
After solar panels have been installed, operational costs are quite low compared to other forms of power generation. Fuel isn’t required, and this means that solar power can create large amounts of electricity without the uncertainty and expense of securing a fuel supply.
Photovoltaic cells in a solar panel turn sunlight into direct current electricity (DC). Then, an inverter converts the DC electricity into alternating current electricity (AC), and once this process has taken place, the electricity is used, fed into the grid or stored in a battery.