The process of distilling the waste heat of solar panels into water.

Gwendolyn 2020-04-10


Life on earth depends on the sun. This is the energy of our planet. It is used directly by solar technology, or indirectly using its influence on wind, waves and biological materials. Grow and use as fuel. As the world ’s goal is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, it is becoming more and more important to make full use of this renewable energy source.

Now, a group of researchers propose that with the current solar technology, the sun can not only provide electricity, but also do more things. Scientists at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia have studied ways to connect solar cells to water purification systems to help produce drinking water in scarce places.

Desalination of seawater requires energy

Today, the shortage of fresh water has become a major challenge facing the world. Although this is not a common problem, nearly half of the world ’s population lives in water-scarce areas for at least one month each year, and data shows that this number may increase to 4.8-5.7 billion by 2050. A viable method for producing drinking water. Due to its high water productivity and high productivity, traditional seawater desalination technology helps to maintain the severe water shortage challenges facing human society. For example, the Middle East accounts for 45% of global desalination. However, the upfront cost of these technologies is very high and consumes a lot of energy during operation. In Saudi Arabia,

Promising photovoltaic membrane distillation

In order to reduce the energy output in the necessary process, Professor Wang Peng, head of the KAUST research team and his doctorate have turned to solar energy to meet this challenge. Candidates Sara Aleid and Wenbin Wang reported on a new technology called photovoltaic membrane distillation (PV-MD).

Generally, photovoltaic systems convert solar energy to move free charge carriers (electrons) in silicon semiconductors to generate electrical energy. During this process, heat will also form in the battery, which is a loss of energy. However, the KAUST team was able to use its new PV-MD technology to convert the waste heat of solar collectors into energy that can drive water distillation. Wang said: "PV-MD is very suitable, has commercial competitiveness, and can provide water and electricity to areas suffering from economic and natural water shortages."

The team demonstrated how to produce clean drinking water from various water sources on site, including seawater, contaminated rivers, lakes, groundwater and industrial wastewater. The author said: "The most promising application of PV-MD is the decentralized joint production of water and electricity at consumption points (eg, off-grid communities and small and medium-sized population communities), as this will reduce the total cost of solar power generation. Power transmission and transportation. "

The next step will involve expanding the commercial application of the technology. The team hopes that their technology will become popular one day, thereby creating a more accessible and affordable way to provide drinking water to everyone.

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