PacSci-Doku: "No Boiling Required" Answer

By Dennis Schatz - Senior Vice President for Strategic Programs

The question in this edition is:

What may give a big boost to solar power?

The answer: Cold Steam

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A group of scientists from Rice University found that they could produce "cold steam" if they focused sunlight on a container of water that includes nano-sized beads that are one-tenth the diameter of a human hair. The carbon or gold-covered silicon dioxide spheres are the right size to absorb most of the sun's light rather than scattering the light. Bubbles of steam form around the spheres and bring the spheres to the surface where the steam is released without needing to heat the surrounding liquid. The beads then sink back down in the water to repeat the process. 80% of the solar energy goes into making steam while only 20% goes into heating the water - thus leaving the water only slightly warm to the touch. This new technology may be especially useful in rural areas to desalinate sea water, produce electricity or sterilize medical equipment. Learn More

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