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Photothermal materials for efficient solar powered steam generation


Solar powered steam generation is an emerging area in the field of energy harvest and sustainable technologies. The nano-structured photothermal materials are able to harvest energy from the full solar spectrum and convert it to heat with high efficiency. Moreover, the materials and structures for heat management as well as the mass transportation are also brought to the forefront. Several groups have reported their materials and structures as solutions for high performance devices, a few creatively coupled other physical fields with solar energy to achieve even better results. This paper provides a systematic review on the recent developments in photothermal nanomaterial discovery, material selection, structural design and mass/heat management, as well as their applications in seawater desalination and fresh water production from waste water with free solar energy. It also discusses current technical challenges and likely future developments. This article will help to stimulate novel ideas and new designs for the photothermal materials, towards efficient, low cost practical solar-driven clean water production.


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This work is supported by the Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality (STCSM) (Grant No. 17230732700), the Innovate UK (Grant No. 104013), the institutional strategic grant—Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), that City, University of London, receives from Research England, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

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Correspondence to Binyuan Zhao or Weiping Wu.

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Liu, F., Lai, Y., Zhao, B. et al. Photothermal materials for efficient solar powered steam generation. Front. Chem. Sci. Eng. 13, 636–653 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11705-019-1824-1

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  • solar stream generation
  • plasmonics
  • porous carbon
  • photothermal materials
  • solar energy conversion efficiency
  • water vapor generation rate