MIT Announces New Solar to Steam Process

A press published today from the MIT News Office which I think could be of interest to people here:

Steam from the sun: New spongelike structure converts solar energy into steam.

A new material structure developed at MIT generates steam by soaking up the sun.

The structure — a layer of graphite flakes and an underlying carbon foam — is a porous, insulating material structure that floats on water. When sunlight hits the structure’s surface, it creates a hotspot in the graphite, drawing water up through the material’s pores, where it evaporates as steam. The brighter the light, the more steam is generated.

The new material is able to convert 85 percent of incoming solar energy into steam — a significant improvement over recent approaches to solar-powered steam generation. What’s more, the setup loses very little heat in the process, and can produce steam at relatively low solar intensity. This would mean that, if scaled up, the setup would likely not require complex, costly systems to highly concentrate sunlight . . .

The researchers tested the structure by placing it in a chamber of water and exposing it to a solar simulator — a light source that simulates various intensities of solar radiation. They found they were able to convert 85 percent of solar energy into steam at a solar intensity 10 times that of a typical sunny day . . .

The full article can be read here.

So here’s another possible way to make steam a key ingredient in many industrial processes in addition to heating and the generation of electricity. There’s not much data provided here, but even though this is a very interesting discovery it sounds like a lot of engineering would be involved to make this a competitive way to produce steam. There would need to be a large surface area of this material in direct sunlight to produce steam in useful quantities — and then you would need to provide a means to capture the steam and send it to where it could be used.

Any new energy technology is going to have to compete in what could become a crowded marketplace over the next few years. Solar technology is a very popular area for research and development these days. It’s growing fast and seems to be getting more efficient year by year. If and when LENR enters the mix it will be interesting to see how the market sorts out these competing technologies.