Going beyond efficiency for solar evaporation

Ning Xu, Jinlei Li, Casey Finnerty, Yan Song, Lin Zhou, Bin Zhu, Peng Wang, Baoxia Mi, Jia Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Interfacial solar evaporation, which captures solar energy and localizes the generated heat for evaporating water molecules, is regarded as an important emerging strategy for solar energy conversion. In the past decade, global collective efforts have propelled fast and exciting advancements, with solar-to-vapour efficiencies approaching the thermodynamic limit. This has also spurred significant interest in many applications. However, improving the energy efficiency alone cannot move the field towards the practical development of these applications. A matrix of different factors and fundamental challenges should therefore be taken into consideration in addition to the solar-to-vapour efficiency or evaporation flux. In this Perspective we first discuss several promising applications of solar evaporation, and the corresponding figures of merit, for clean water production, wastewater and brine management, resource recovery, sterilization and power generation. We then discuss the fundamental aspects of solar evaporation that need to be determined, such as microscopic thermal transfer and water molecule bonding, which are closely related to evaporative performance. Finally, energy sources beyond solar energy will be discussed to further boost the evaporative performance.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNature Water
StatePublished - May 29 2023

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2023-06-02
Acknowledgements: J.Z. acknowledges support from the XPLORER PRIZE. This work was jointly supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant numbers 51925204, 52102262, 92262305, 52003116, 12022403 and 52002168), the Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province (grant numbers BK20200340 and BK20220035) and the National Key Research and Development Program of China (grant numbers 2022YFB3804902 and 2022YFA1404704).


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