UT Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering has created a rose-shaped device for collecting and purifying water.
According to the team led by associate professor Donglei Fan, each of these flower-like structures costs less than 2 cents and can produce more than half a gallon of water per hour.
The solar-steaming system is made from layered, black paper sheets shaped into petals. The 3D rose shape makes it easier for the structure to collect and retain more liquid.
According to the scientists, current solar-steaming technologies are usually expensive, bulky and produce limited results.
The team’s method on the other hand uses inexpensive materials that are portable and lightweight, and the device itself looks like a black-petaled rose in a glass jar.
Fan and her team have been searching for more efficient ways to apply the solar-steaming technique for water production.
One such approach is utilizing black filtered paper coated with a special type of polymer, known as polypyrrole.
Polypyrrole is a material known for its photothermal properties and is good at converting solar light into thermal heat.
Fan’s team experimented with a number of different ways to shape the paper to see what was best for achieving optimal water retention levels.
After toying with a few other shapes, Fan was inspired by the rose as its structure allowed more direct sunlight to hit the photothermic material than other floral shapes.
It also provides enlarged surface area for water vapor to dissipate from the material.
According to the scientists, the new device collects water through its stem-like tube – feeding it to the flower-shaped structure on top. It can also collect rain drops coming from above.
Water finds its way to the petals where the polypyrrole material coating the flower turns the water into steam. Impurities can be naturally separated from water when condensed in this way.
Image and content: Cockrell School of Engineering/UT Austin