Three-dimensional open architecture enabling salt-rejection solar evaporators with boosted water production efficiency

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43 Scopus citations


Direct solar desalination exhibits considerable potential for alleviating the global freshwater crisis. However, the prevention of salt accumulation while maintaining high water production remains an important challenge that limits its practical applications because the methods currently employed for achieving rapid salt backflow usually result in considerable heat loss. Herein, we fabricate a solar evaporator featuring vertically aligned mass transfer bridges for water transport and salt backflow. The 3D open architecture constructed using mass transfer bridges enables the evaporator to efficiently utilize the conductive heat that would otherwise be lost, significantly improving the water evaporation efficiency without compromising on salt rejection. The fabricated evaporator can treat salt water with more than 10% salinity. Moreover, it can continuously and steadily work in a real environment under natural sunlight with a practical solar-to-water collection efficiency of >40%. Using the discharged water from reverse osmosis plants and sea water from the Red Sea, the evaporator demonstrates a daily freshwater generation rate of ~5 L/m2, which is sufficient to satisfy individual drinking water requirements. With strong salt rejection, high energy efficiency, and simple scalability, the 3D evaporator has considerable promise for freshwater supply for water-stressed and off-grid communities.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 4 2022

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-11-07
Acknowledgements: This work is supported by KAUST baseline Fund to Y.H. and the National Key Research and Development Project of China (2022YFE0113800). The authors thank Mohammad I. Hussain and Amal Thundiyil Ambili Chandran from the FM team for providing the discharged water from the RO system of the KAUST seawater desalination plant.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Chemistry
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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