About 90 percent of the electricity we consume comes from steam turbines. While steam has been in the use for thousands of years, the energy required to convert water into steam has been changing. Researchers at Rice University have not unveiled a revolutionary new technology that uses nanoparticles to convert solar energy directly into steam. The new method, called “Solar Steam”, is so efficient that it can produce steam from icy cold water.
With an overall efficiency rating of 24 percent, which is more than photovoltaic panels that revolve around the 15 percent mark, the team behind the solar steam believes that its first use will not be for electricity generation, but will rather be used for sanitation and water purification in the developing parts of the world. The high efficiency of the system is due to the light-capturing nanoparticles that convert sunlight into heat. When submerged in water and exposed to sunlight, the particles heat up so quickly that they instantly vaporize water and create steam.
People in the developing parts of the world could be the first to see the benefits of this new steam-producing method. The team at Rice University has already created a solar steam-powered autoclave that can sterilize medical and dental instruments at clinics with no access to the electric grid. Another possible use of this solar steam would be in powering hybrid air conditioning and heating systems that get powered by sunlight during day and conventionally after dark.