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Water-evaporation-induced electricity with nanostructured carbon materials


Water evaporation is a ubiquitous natural process1 that harvests thermal energy from the ambient environment. It has previously been utilized in a number of applications2,3 including the synthesis of nanostructures4 and the creation of energy-harvesting devices5,6. Here, we show that water evaporation from the surface of a variety of nanostructured carbon materials can be used to generate electricity. We find that evaporation from centimetre-sized carbon black sheets can reliably generate sustained voltages of up to 1 V under ambient conditions. The interaction between the water molecules and the carbon layers and moreover evaporation-induced water flow within the porous carbon sheets are thought to be key to the voltage generation. This approach to electricity generation is related to the traditional streaming potential7, which relies on driving ionic solutions through narrow gaps, and the recently reported method of moving ionic solutions across graphene surfaces8,9, but as it exploits the natural process of evaporation and uses cheap carbon black it could offer advantages in the development of practical devices.

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Figure 1: Evaporation-induced electricity in CB.
Figure 2: Ambient conditions-dependent evaporation-induced potential.
Figure 3: Origin of the evaporation-induced electricity.
Figure 4: Scaling and applications of the evaporation-induced electricity.


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This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (51322210, 51672097, 51472117, 51535005), 973 programs (2013CB932604), a Foundation for the Author of National Excellent Doctoral Dissertation of PR China (201035), the National Program for Support of Top-notch Young Professionals and Director Fund of WNLO. We thank Y. Gogotsi, M. Xu, J. Tang, S. Q. Zeng, K. Lu, H. J. Gao, X. C. Zeng, Z. L. Wang and Z. H. Zhang for helpful discussions and suggestions, and K. Liu for help in the streaming potential test.

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Authors and Affiliations



J.Z. and W.G. conceived and designed the study; G.X., T.D., J.L., W.F., J.Yin, Y.C. and L.Y. performed the experiments, Y.X. and J.Yu conducted the simulations; L.G., J.C. and S.D. took part in characterizing the samples; W.G. and J.Z. analysed the results with contributions from all authors and wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Jun Zhou or Wanlin Guo.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Xue, G., Xu, Y., Ding, T. et al. Water-evaporation-induced electricity with nanostructured carbon materials. Nature Nanotech 12, 317–321 (2017).

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