A team of specialists working with the Rice University has recently made it public news that, when it comes to producing steam from water, boiling is soon to no longer be a must.
This is because a technology they developed and tested supposedly is fully capable of using nanoparticles in order to make steam, without the need to previously heat the water past its boiling point.
The researchers explain that their innovative use of nanoparticles stands to change the way in which numerous industrial processes use and abuse natural resources.
This is because, for the time being at least, making steam means that water must first be boiled, something that translates into considerable amounts of energy being burnt in order to accomplish this task.
Therefore, switching from boiling to using nanoparticles will translate into more energy-efficient steam-reliant industrial processes.
As Naomi Halas, the director of the Laboratory for Nanophotonics at Rice University puts it, “It's a new way to make steam without boiling water,” which, “opens up a lot interesting doors in terms of what you can use steam for.”
MIT Technology Review lets us in on all the science talk surrounding this new technology. Thus, the researchers first filled up a small tube of water with numerous nanoparticles, and then proceeded to focus sunlight on it.
Despite the fact that the water's temperature was previously brought close to freezing, it seems that, once the sunlight hit the nanoparticles, it only took about 20 seconds before steam began being produced.
Moreover, 82% of the sun energy collected by these nanoparticles went into generating steam, whereas only 18% of it ended up heating the water.
The specialists who worked on this project hope that their findings will make it possible for engineers to develop cost- and energy-efficient steam-generation devices that can help with water purification, sterilization of various objects, and sewage treatment in poor countries.
However, future studies are needed in order to make pertinent observations concerning the life span and feasibility of these nanoparticles.