A sustainable supply of clean water is essential for the development of modern society, which has become increasingly dependent on desalination technology since 96.5% of the water on Earth is salt water. Thousands of desalination plants are producing massive waste brine as byproduct, and the direct discharge of brine raises serious concerns about its ecological impact. The concept of zero liquid discharge (ZLD) desalination is regarded as the solution, but the current ZLD technologies are hampered by their intensive use of energy and high cost. In this work, a 3D cup shaped solar evaporator was fabricated to achieve ZLD desalination with high energy efficiency via solar distillation. It produces solid salt as the only byproduct and uses sunlight as the only energy source. By rationally separating the light absorbing surface from the salt precipitation surface, the light absorption of the 3D solar evaporator is no longer affected by the salt crust layer as in conventional 2D solar evaporators. Therefore, it can be operated at an extremely high salt concentration of 25 wt % without noticeable water evaporation rate decay in at least 120 h. This new solar evaporator design concept offers a promising technology especially for high salinity brine treatment in desalination plants to achieve greener ZLD desalination as well as for hypersaline industrial wastewater treatment.
Bibliographical noteKAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: This work was supported by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Center Competitive Fund (CCF) awarded to the Water Desalination and Reuse Center (WDRC).