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Solar-Powered Nanotubes Could Bring Clean Water to the World

Could a solar-powered generator made from wood and bacteria help bring clean water to the world? Researchers in China have developed a prototype they say improves the concept of a solar steam generator, making it more efficient and feasible by boosting each of its components.


“To design better solar steam generators, researchers must find ways to improve light absorption, heat management, water transport and evaporation,” the American Chemical Society (ACS) said in a statement. “Shu-Hong Yu and colleagues at the University of Science and Technology of China wanted to combine all four improvements in a single device.”


The generator they’ve designed is a marvel of intersecting nanotechnology. First, the structure is built from wood. The surface is seeded with bacteria that begin to ferment the surface cellulose into nanofibers.


Then, the researchers spray on glass microbubbles that bond with the cellulose to form a gel structure. Finally, the entire surface is frosted with carbon nanotubes.


What results is a layered material that draws water up through the wood and cellulose and into the realm of the nanotubes, where sunlight warms the water and evaporates it as steam. Contaminants remain below, and steam gathers into clean condensation at the top of the device. And the layer of insulating glass microbubbles keeps heat insulated inside the chamber where the steam reaction takes place.


There’s a simple reason this design is so successful in reducing friction points found in other solar steam generator concepts. As the researchers explain in their paper:


“Our [hierarchal solar steam generator] integrates solar-to-vapor efficiency improvement and vaporization enthalpy reduction by integrating the hierarchical multifunctional BC nanocomposites with the natural porous structure of wood.”


clean water steam generator


This means they’ve used a combination of materials that naturally fold together, fit well, and form a natural surface ideal for this work. Because of that, the resulting generator has higher rates of evaporation and overall energy efficiency than existing solar steam generator designs.


This promising work could lead to further developments with other materials, too. Carbon nanotubes have been the subject of research across what seems like all sciences, but with water in particular, they’ve shown promise in multiple different kinds of filtration and energy generation. In this case, their structure draws water upward, where their properties and makeup then help to concentrate solar energy.


The advantages of a solar generator like this are myriad. Lack of access to clean water often comes with lack of access to traditional energy sources. If someone who must fill buckets from a well each day can then pour water into a non-powered filtration system, that piece of equipment can sit anywhere there’s sunshine.


But this concept can only work if the energy generation is efficient enough to be worthwhile, and testing new nanomaterials and composites is an important part of reaching that goal.


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  1. Davidshova

    Which brings us to Bloons TD 6. It’s a game the relies heavily on the past, and while it looks lovely, it doesn’t add anything new to the formula we’re all starting to grow a little tired of. The Monkey Village is easily the most underrated tower in BTD6. It doesn’t even pop bloons, though, right? While it does not pop bloons, it does allow other towers to become absurdly powerful for their round. The Monkey Village’s immediate cost is daunting; but if purchased, a 0-0-2 upgrade path will save you 3,690 cash when purchasing a Sun Avatar on Hard Difficulty. The tower’s range increases by a fair amount as well. The Monkey Village also displays versatility in its top two upgrade paths. The extended range option can allow this support tower to benefit more monkeys. The second path offers camo detection and the wildly powerful Monkey Intelligence Bureau. Super Mario Party is one of the best selling games on the Nintendo Switch. Despite this the game saw very little in the way of post-launch support, with many fans left disappointed by Nintendo’s treatment of the game. In a surprise update, the console manufacturer has announced that the party game is receiving a major multiplayer update. You’re probably wondering like us, “Why are we just getting this now and not when the game launched?” Good question. We don’t know, and neither does anyone else, really. It seems like all of this was pretty easily accessible for them to throw into the game, almost like they planned it to expand the playability of the title. But the game has been out for two and a half years, so what was the point in giving it a much-needed major upgrade now and not say, three months after it came out? It also feels super late considering this would have been a good distraction during the pandemic, too.

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