The solar steam project could be ramped up to produce electricity.
According to the San Antonio Express News, researchers at Rice University have developed a way to use nanoparticles to create steam before water reaches its boiling point.
The process could be used to produce electricity, among other uses, says Naomi Halas, director of the Laboratory for Nanophotonics at Rice and the lead scientist on the solar steam project.
According to the San Antonia Express News, “The process works by submerging light-capturing nanoparticles into water. When exposed to sunlight, they heat up and vaporize the water to create steam.”
“It takes a lot of energy to heat water,” Halas says. “You think about making pasta, making tea, you don’t get steam until you heat a large volume of water to the boiling point. We’re short-cutting that by putting nanoparticles in water to generate steam directly."
The process could also be used to clean medical instruments and process waste, says Halas.
“What’s unique about this technology is you can develop it into relatively small footprint sources of energy, off-grid,” Halas says, according to the Express News.
The solar steam project is also unique because it is more efficient than other PV solar panels, with an overall efficiency of 24%, nearly double the amount for traditional solar panels.
The details are published in the American Chemical Society's journal ACS Nano.