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ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2018 Jan 10;10(1):1104-1112. doi: 10.1021/acsami.7b15125. Epub 2017 Dec 29.

Lightweight, Mesoporous, and Highly Absorptive All-Nanofiber Aerogel for Efficient Solar Steam Generation.

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School of Environment and Civil Engineering, Dongguan University of Technology , Guangdong 523808, China.
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Colorado , Boulder, Colorado 80309, United States.


The global fresh water shortage has driven enormous endeavors in seawater desalination and wastewater purification; among these, solar steam generation is effective in extracting fresh water by efficient utilization of naturally abundant solar energy. For solar steam generation, the primary focus is to design new materials that are biodegradable, sustainable, of low cost, and have high solar steam generation efficiency. Here, we designed a bilayer aerogel structure employing naturally abundant cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs) as basic building blocks to achieve sustainability and biodegradability as well as employing a carbon nanotube (CNT) layer for efficient solar utilization with over 97.5% of light absorbance from 300 to 1200 nm wavelength. The ultralow density (0.0096 g/cm3) of the aerogel ensures that minimal material is required, reducing the production cost while at the same time satisfying the water transport and thermal-insulation requirements due to its highly porous structure (99.4% porosity). Owing to its rationally designed structure and thermal-regulation performance, the bilayer CNF-CNT aerogel exhibits a high solar-energy conversion efficiency of 76.3% and 1.11 kg m-2 h-1 at 1 kW m-2 (1 Sun) solar irradiation, comparable or even higher than most of the reported solar steam generation devices. Therefore, the all-nanofiber aerogel presents a new route for designing biodegradable, sustainable, and scalable solar steam generation devices with superb performance.


aerogel; carbon nanotube; cellulose nanofibrils; solar steam generation; water treatment


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