Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors



Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > Rice unveils super-efficient solar-energy technology

The solar steam device developed at Rice University has an overall energy efficiency of 24 percent, far surpassing that of photovoltaic solar panels. It may first be used in sanitation and water-purification applications in the developing world. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)
The solar steam device developed at Rice University has an overall energy efficiency of 24 percent, far surpassing that of photovoltaic solar panels. It may first be used in sanitation and water-purification applications in the developing world.

(Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Abstract:
Rice University scientists have unveiled a revolutionary new technology that uses nanoparticles to convert solar energy directly into steam. The new "solar steam" method from Rice's Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP) is so effective it can even produce steam from icy cold water.

Rice unveils super-efficient solar-energy technology

Houston, TX | Posted on November 19th, 2012

Details of the solar steam method were published online today in ACS Nano. The technology has an overall energy efficiency of 24 percent. Photovoltaic solar panels, by comparison, typically have an overall energy efficiency around 15 percent. However, the inventors of solar steam said they expect the first uses of the new technology will not be for electricity generation but rather for sanitation and water purification in developing countries.

"This is about a lot more than electricity," said LANP Director Naomi Halas, the lead scientist on the project. "With this technology, we are beginning to think about solar thermal power in a completely different way."

The efficiency of solar steam is due to the light-capturing nanoparticles that convert sunlight into heat. When submerged in water and exposed to sunlight, the particles heat up so quickly they instantly vaporize water and create steam. Halas said the solar steam's overall energy efficiency can probably be increased as the technology is refined.

"We're going from heating water on the macro scale to heating it at the nanoscale," Halas said. "Our particles are very small — even smaller than a wavelength of light — which means they have an extremely small surface area to dissipate heat. This intense heating allows us to generate steam locally, right at the surface of the particle, and the idea of generating steam locally is really counterintuitive."

To show just how counterintuitive, Rice graduate student Oara Neumann videotaped a solar steam demonstration in which a test tube of water containing light-activated nanoparticles was submerged into a bath of ice water. Using a lens to concentrate sunlight onto the near-freezing mixture in the tube, Neumann showed she could create steam from nearly frozen water.

Steam is one of the world's most-used industrial fluids. About 90 percent of electricity is produced from steam, and steam is also used to sterilize medical waste and surgical instruments, to prepare food and to purify water.

Most industrial steam is produced in large boilers, and Halas said solar steam's efficiency could allow steam to become economical on a much smaller scale.

People in developing countries will be among the first to see the benefits of solar steam. Rice engineering undergraduates have already created a solar steam-powered autoclave that's capable of sterilizing medical and dental instruments at clinics that lack electricity. Halas also won a Grand Challenges grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to create an ultra-small-scale system for treating human waste in areas without sewer systems or electricity.

"Solar steam is remarkable because of its efficiency," said Neumann, the lead co-author on the paper. "It does not require acres of mirrors or solar panels. In fact, the footprint can be very small. For example, the light window in our demonstration autoclave was just a few square centimeters."

Another potential use could be in powering hybrid air-conditioning and heating systems that run off of sunlight during the day and electricity at night. Halas, Neumann and colleagues have also conducted distillation experiments and found that solar steam is about two-and-a-half times more efficient than existing distillation columns.

Halas, the Stanley C. Moore Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, professor of physics, professor of chemistry and professor of biomedical engineering, is one of the world's most-cited chemists. Her lab specializes in creating and studying light-activated particles. One of her creations, gold nanoshells, is the subject of several clinical trials for cancer treatment.

For the cancer treatment technology and many other applications, Halas' team chooses particles that interact with just a few wavelengths of light. For the solar steam project, Halas and Neumann set out to design a particle that would interact with the widest possible spectrum of sunlight energy. Their new nanoparticles are activated by both visible sunlight and shorter wavelengths that humans cannot see.

"We're not changing any of the laws of thermodynamics," Halas said. "We're just boiling water in a radically different way."

Paper co-authors include Jared Day, graduate student; Alexander Urban, postdoctoral researcher; Surbhi Lal, research scientist and LANP executive director; and Peter Nordlander, professor of physics and astronomy and of electrical and computer engineering. The research was supported by the Welch Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

####

About Rice University
Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,708 undergraduates and 2,374 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice has been ranked No. 1 for best quality of life multiple times by the Princeton Review and No. 2 for “best value” among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. To read “What they’re saying about Rice,” go to tinyurl.com/AboutRice.

Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Jeff Falk
713-348-6775


Mike Williams
713-348-6728

Copyright © Rice University

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related Links

A copy of the ACS Nano paper is available at:

Related News Press

News and information

Arrowhead to Present at BioCentury's NewsMakers in the Biotech Industry Conference September 19th, 2014

SouthWest NanoTechnologies (SWeNT) Receives NIST Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 Award to Produce Greater than 99% Semiconducting Single-Wall Carbon Nanotubes September 19th, 2014

Toward optical chips: A promising light source for optoelectronic chips can be tuned to different frequencies September 19th, 2014

New research points to graphene as a flexible, low-cost touchscreen solution September 19th, 2014

Videos/Movies

Next-Gen Luxury RV From Global Caravan Technologies Will Offer MagicView Roof and Windshield Using SPD-SmartGlass Technology From Research Frontiers: Recreational Vehicle Manufacturer Global Caravan Technologies (GCT) Features 28 Square Feet of MagicView™ SPD-SmartGlass September 17th, 2014

Scientists refine formula for nanotube types: Rice University theorists determine factors that give tubes their chiral angles September 17th, 2014

RMIT delivers $30m boost to micro and nano-tech August 26th, 2014

The channel that relaxes DNA: Relaxing DNA strands by using nano-channels: Instructions for use August 20th, 2014

Discoveries

Toward optical chips: A promising light source for optoelectronic chips can be tuned to different frequencies September 19th, 2014

New research points to graphene as a flexible, low-cost touchscreen solution September 19th, 2014

CiQUS researchers design an artificial nose to detect DNA differentiation with single nucleotide resolution September 18th, 2014

Big Results Require Big Ambitions: Three young UCSB faculty receive CAREER awards from the National Science Foundation September 18th, 2014

Announcements

Arrowhead to Present at BioCentury's NewsMakers in the Biotech Industry Conference September 19th, 2014

SouthWest NanoTechnologies (SWeNT) Receives NIST Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 Award to Produce Greater than 99% Semiconducting Single-Wall Carbon Nanotubes September 19th, 2014

Toward optical chips: A promising light source for optoelectronic chips can be tuned to different frequencies September 19th, 2014

New research points to graphene as a flexible, low-cost touchscreen solution September 19th, 2014

Energy

IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting To Celebrate 60th Anniversary as The Leading Technical Conference for Advanced Semiconductor Devices September 18th, 2014

Rice rolls 'neat' nanotube fibers: Rice University researchers' acid-free approach leads to strong conductive carbon threads September 15th, 2014

Simple, Cost-Effective Method Proposed for Synthesizing Zinc Oxide Nanopigments September 15th, 2014

UT Arlington research uses nanotechnology to help cool electrons with no external sources September 11th, 2014

Solar/Photovoltaic

Simple, Cost-Effective Method Proposed for Synthesizing Zinc Oxide Nanopigments September 15th, 2014

Indium/Copper Sulfide Compound Semi-Conductor Synthesized through New Method September 8th, 2014

Material development on the nanoscale: Doped graphene nanoribbons with potential September 8th, 2014

Layered graphene sandwich for next generation electronics September 8th, 2014

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More














ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE