Solar Evaporator To Provide Safe Drinking Water?

No doubt you’ve seen a headline or two over the last few months emphasising the fact that we’re now living in times of severe water stress and scarcity… which may well have spurred some of you out there to prioritise commercial water saving, whether that’s through focusing on leak detection and repair or something like rainwater harvesting.


While businesses can certainly do an awful lot to reduce the pressure on our water resources, it’s great to hear that scientists are also doing all they can to find answers to this particularly pressing problem.


As evidence of this, researchers at the University of Maryland’s A James Clark School of Engineering have just come up with a solar evaporator made of wood that could help facilitate affordable small-scale desalination.


Currently, around a billion people lack access to safe drinking water globally and this dangerous gap can be filled by desalinating salt water to make it drinkable – but traditional systems are too expensive to install and run in some locations, particularly in remote areas and low-income countries.


The new prototype generates steam with high efficiency and with minimal need for maintenance, according to the team, using a technique known as interfacial evaporation.


Evaporators of this kind are made of thin material which floats on saline water. They absorb solar heat on top and pull the saline water up from below, before converting it to steam and leaving the salt behind.


Associate professor of materials science and engineering Liangbing Hu said the technique “shows great potential in response to global water scarcity because of its high solar-to-vapour efficiency, low environmental impact and portable device design with low cost. These features make it suitable for off-grid water generation and purification, especially for low-income countries”.


It seems that innovation of this kind is becoming increasingly necessary as time goes on, with experts saying that water availability could fall by up to 15 per cent in the UK come the year 2050.


Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, recently explained that the UK will be hit with hotter, drier summers and by 2040 it’s expected that over half the summers we’ll see will surpass temperatures seen in 2003. During the summer, some rivers could see between 50 and 80 per cent less water, pushing the drought risk up thanks to hotter weather and less predictable rainfall.


Climate change problems will also be exacerbated by population growth, which is forecast to rise from 67 million to 75 million in 2050, so more houses, roads, energy, food and places will be necessary… and this will mean even more pressure is put on our already stressed water supplies.


If you’re concerned about water stress and want to start doing your bit to help tackle the problem head on, get in touch with us here at H2O Building Services to see what we can do for you.