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Converting Solar Energy Into Steam Using a “Sponge”

It’s like a solar sponge, but the researcher prefer to call it as a “solar vapor generator.”


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Engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new approach in using solar energy: a bubble-wrapped, sponge-like device absorbs light through its pores that is converted into steam.

It’s like a solar sponge, but the researcher prefer to call it as a “solar vapor generator.” Instead of using mirrors or lenses to gather sunlight, it relies on the combination of low-tech materials to capture sunlight and collect it as heat, which is then directed towards the pores of the sponge releasing it as steam.


Source: MIT

The design was derived in a research that devised a similar sponge-like material, made of graphite and carbon foam, which boiled water and convert 85 percent of the incoming sunlight to steam. The only difference is that this new system uses a spectrally-selective absorber, which is a thin, blue, metallic-like film.

This material is responsible for absorbing radiation in the visible range of the electromagnetic spectrum, which is usually on solar water heaters. It doesn’t radiate in infrared range, hence trapping heat and minimizing heat loss. But there is still heat loss through convection in this system alone; this is answered by introducing a layer of bubble wrap that will disable the heat to escape.

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Engr. Frank Taylor
Australian living in sunny Dubai. Chemical engineer, writer, blogger and social good enthusiast. I'm on Twitter @FrankTaylor90

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