Masdar & MIT researchers create solar-to-steam device

Masdar & MIT researchers create solar-to-steam device

Researchers from Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US have partnered to create a device that makes steam from the sun, without the use of solar panels.

The team of researchers developed a solar-conversion system using bubble wrap and plastic foam that floats on water.

The technology is made up of a floating sponge that has a light absorber, which is between bubble wrap and foam. The receiver soaks up the water and evaporates it, generating a steady flow of steam.

The device converts 20% of the solar energy caught into steam.

“The technology is particularly suited for the UAE’s dusty climate, as it fully uses the entire spectrum of sunlight for thermal applications rather than just the direct portion, which can be hindered by aerosols,” said TieJun Zhang, assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering at Masdar Institute.

According to Steve Griffiths, VP for research and associate provost of Masdar Institute, the technology is still in the development stage. Although the device has been able to produce steam, additional research and development research is required.

He said: “Right now this is a great scientific finding in the direction of applications that we really care about, and now we just need to put the engineering behind it to figure out the market to make this applicable.”

Researchers still need to pinpoint the area in which it will best be used – possibly in medical sterilisation or desalination.

The device’s key factor is the absence of solar panels, which on average make up about 30-40% of the total cost for solar projects.

“This project is an excellent demonstration of how international collaboration and use-inspired research can yield cutting-edge scientific findings that have direct application to the sectors that are at the core of the UAE’s continued evolution toward an innovation and knowledge-based economy,” said Griffiths.