Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Steam to Stream

Technology harnessing evaporation to cheaply transform water from undrinkable to drinkable

21 May 2020

Steam to Stream

Shimmering on the surface of a distant puddle, water turns to steam, warmed by the sun’s energy. A similar form of evaporation is harnessed here – generating a plume of steam that can be cooled into high-quality drinking water. The design for this ‘steam generator’ features organic components – a light ‘aerogel’ peppered with organic molecules that absorb up to 99% of the sun’s energy, while at the same time soaking up water from beneath. Exposed to the trapped heat, the water quickly evaporates to steam, leaving impurities – like salt or dirt – behind. The device is cheap to make, raising hopes for widespread use in desalinating water in parts of the world where potable water is scarce, currently affecting over two billion people.

Written by John Ankers

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