An innovative wood-based, self-cleaning solar evaporator could make desalination stations affordable—and practical—for more locations.
The wood-based system from the team at the University of Maryland relies on interfacial evaporation, during which an evaporative surface floats on top of the water and absorbs solar heat to convert water to steam, leaving behind the salt. Though this process is less expensive than traditional methods, it also results in salt deposits on the surface that can degrade performance.
As a more effective alternative, the researchers created an interfacial evaporator by taking advantage of the natural channels found in basswood. The team supplemented the channels by drilling millimeter-wide channels in a cross-section of the wood and then carbonizing the top surface. The additional channels help prevent salt from collecting on the material and offer a stable steam generation with about 75 percent efficiency.