The US Army Research Office (ARO) is funding researchers at the University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, for a study focused on a laser-processed aluminum panel that efficiently concentrates solar energy to evaporate and purify contaminated water. Put simply, this process transmors regular shiny aluminum to a pitch black color, making it highly absorptive, as well as super-wicking. This material is then used for the solar water purification technique. Read more for a video and additional information.
The blackened surface retains nearly 100 percent of the energy it absorbs from the sun to rapidly heat the water, while the wicking surface structures change the inter-molecular bonds of the water, thus increasing the efficiency of the evaporation process. This aluminum panel avoids contaminants by pulling a thin layer of water out of the reservoir and directly onto the sunlight-absorbing surface for heating as well as evaporation.
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The US Army runs on water, so there is particular interest in basic materials research that could lead to advanced technologies for generating safe drinking water. The combined super-wicking and light-absorbing properties of these aluminum surfaces may enable passive or low-power water purification in the field,” said Dr. Evan Runnerstrom, program manager at ARO.