The idea of using energy from the sun to evaporate and purify water is ancient. The Greek philosopher Aristotle reportedly described such a process more than 2,000 years ago.
Now, researchers are bringing this technology into the modern age, using it to sanitize water at what they report to be record-breaking rates.
By draping black, carbon-dipped paper in a triangular shape and using it to both absorb and vaporize water, they have developed a method for using sunlight to generate clean water with near-perfect efficiency.
“Our technique is able to produce drinking water at a faster pace than is theoretically calculated under natural sunlight,” says lead researcher Qiaoqiang Gan, PhD, associate professor of electrical engineering in the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.