Pure drinking water may be a widely available commodity in developed countries, but in many other parts of the world, it’s still a scarcity. Many innovative solutions have been attempted, much like these ‘hydro panels’ from an Arizona-based startup, but there’s still a lot of work to be done before clean water becomes readily available around the globe.
In a bid to fast-forward progress on this urgent global challenge, a joint team of researchers from the US Army and the University of Rochester has joined forces to create an aluminum panel that uses solar power to accelerate water evaporation and purification.
To develop the new device, the team used a laser processing technology that turns regular aluminum pitch black, making it highly absorptive, as well as “super-wicking”, being able to work against gravity and wick water upwards on the panel.
Thanks to its pitch-black surface, the panel harnesses more energy from the sun and is able to keep hold of most of it to evaporate the water which in turn rids it of contaminants.
“These three things together enable the technology to operate better than an ideal device at 100 percent efficiency,” said Professor Chunlei Guo, professor of optics at the University of Rochester. “This is a simple, durable, inexpensive way to address the global water crisis, especially in developing nations.”
The system can cut down on impurities such as dye, urine, heavy metals, detergents, and glycerin to a level that’s safe for drinking. What’s also impressive is that the device is easy to clean and can be continuously adjusted so it follows the sun during the day thus maximizing energy absorption.