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ACS Nano. 2017 Jun 27;11(6):5510-5518. doi: 10.1021/acsnano.7b00367. Epub 2017 May 18.

Functionalized Graphene Enables Highly Efficient Solar Thermal Steam Generation.

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Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, University of Notre Dame , Notre Dame, Indiana 46556, United States.
College of Polymer Science and Engineering, State Key Laboratory of Polymer Materials Engineering of China, Sichuan University , Chengdu 610065, P. R. China.
Radiation Laboratory, University of Notre Dame , Notre Dame, Indiana 46556, United States.
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Notre Dame , Notre Dame, Indiana 46556, United States.
Center for Sustainable Energy at Notre Dame , Notre Dame, Indiana 46556, United States.


The ability to efficiently utilize solar thermal energy to enable liquid-to-vapor phase transition has great technological implications for a wide variety of applications, such as water treatment and chemical fractionation. Here, we demonstrate that functionalizing graphene using hydrophilic groups can greatly enhance the solar thermal steam generation efficiency. Our results show that specially functionalized graphene can improve the overall solar-to-vapor efficiency from 38% to 48% at one sun conditions compared to chemically reduced graphene oxide. Our experiments show that such an improvement is a surface effect mainly attributed to the more hydrophilic feature of functionalized graphene, which influences the water meniscus profile at the vapor-liquid interface due to capillary effect. This will lead to thinner water films close to the three-phase contact line, where the water surface temperature is higher since the resistance of thinner water film is smaller, leading to more efficient evaporation. This strategy of functionalizing graphene to make it more hydrophilic can be potentially integrated with the existing macroscopic heat isolation strategies to further improve the overall solar-to-vapor conversion efficiency.


functionalized graphene; high efficiency evaporation; hydrophilic groups; solar steam generation; vapor−liquid interface


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