An economical innovative step towards purification of water can be provided via a piece of paper. The raw materials for this solar still only cost about $2 per square meter.
The technology was created by a research team from the State University of New York (SUNY) Buffalo campus. It has been hundreds of years since the solar stills have been around in different styles. The procedure is quite simple. The heat of the sun is utilized by the still to evaporate the water. The vapor then becomes trapped and condensed in a separate container without contaminants. Moisture traps take away the impurities.
The lead researcher and associate professor of electrical engineering, Qiaoqiang Gan, stated; “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.”
There are three unique components of this solar still. The paper base is a fiber-rich paper like those used to make currency. That paper is coated with a carbon black powder which is an inexpensive powder produced from incomplete combustion of oil or tar. The paper works like a napkin to absorb water and the carbon absorbs the sunlight. Blocks of polystyrene foam get cut in order to make 25 connected pieces. That foam acts as an insulator and a barrier to prevent the sunlight from overheating the water.
The research of the team assists in solving some of the remaining problems with conventional solar stills such as cost. In order to use the sun’s rays better, nanomaterials employed cost hundreds of dollars which implies that nanotechnology is extremely impractical for usage in developing nations and low-income areas despite the fact that it is efficient.
Haomin Song, PhD candidate at UB and one of the study’s co-authors, told; “People lacking adequate drinking water have employed solar stills for years, however, these devices are inefficient. For example, many devices lose valuable heat energy due to heating the bulk liquid during the evaporation process. Meanwhile, systems that require optical concentrators, such as mirrors and lenses, to concentrate the sunlight are costly.”
In addition to being extremely efficient, the solar still is also economical. During evaporation, merely 12 percent of available energy gets lost. The team mentioned in their research that this low amount of loss is unparalleled. It has been proved by the test results that the still generate three to 10 liters of water each day which can be perceived as an improvement over existing stills creating between one and five liters daily.
It was reported by the United Nations in 2013 that 783 million people lack access to clean water. Despite the fact that this number has reduced to some extent, the problem stills remains. Each year, six to eight million people die as a result of water quality or access problems. Whether big or small, the initiatives that strive to decrease this number constantly push toward a brighter future for millions.
Zhejun Liu, a visiting scholar at UB, PhD candidate at Fudan University and one the study’s co-authors, said; “The solar still we are developing would be ideal for small communities, allowing people to generate their own drinking water much like they generate their own power via solar panels on their house roof.”