Academics Build Ultimate Solar-Powered Water Purifier
Academics at the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have added a third element—carbon-dipped paper—that could turn into a highly efficient and inexpensive way to turn saltwater and contaminated water into potable water for personal use. The idea, which could help address global drinking water shortages, especially in developing areas and regions affected by natural disasters, has been described in a study published online today in the journal Global Challenges.
“Using extremely low-cost materials, we have been able to create a system that makes near maximum use of the solar energy during evaporation. At the same time, we are minimizing the amount of heat loss during this process,” says lead researcher Qiaoqiang Gan, PhD, associate professor of electrical engineering in the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. To conduct the research, the team built a smallscale solar still. The device, which they call a ‘solar vapour generator’, cleans or desalinates water by using the heat converted from sunlight. Here’s how it works: The sun evaporates the water. During this process, salt, bacteria or other unwanted elements are left behind as the liquid moves into a gaseous state. The water vapour then cools and returns to a liquid state, where it is collected in a separate container without the salt or contaminants. Based upon test results, researchers believe the still is capable of producing 3–10 litres of water per day, which is an improvement over most commercial solar stills of similar size that produce 1–5 litres per day.