As a ubiquitous solar-thermal energy conversion process, solar-driven evaporation has attracted tremendous research attention owing to its high conversion efficiency of solar energy and transformative industrial potential. In recent years, solar-driven interfacial evaporation by localization of solar-thermal energy conversion to the air/liquid interface has been proposed as a promising alternative to conventional bulk heating-based evaporation, potentially reducing thermal losses and improving energy conversion efficiency. In this Review, we discuss the development of the key components for achieving high-performance evaporation, including solar absorbers, evaporation structures, thermal insulators and thermal concentrators, and discuss how they improve the performance of the solar-driven interfacial evaporation system. We describe the possibilities for applying this efficient solar-driven interfacial evaporation process for energy conversion applications. The exciting opportunities and challenges in both fundamental research and practical implementation of the solar-driven interfacial evaporation process are also discussed.
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P.T., C.S., W.S. and T.D. received financial support from the National Key R&D Program of China (Grant No. 2017YFB0406100), National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 51521004, 51420105009, 51403127 and 21401129), the ‘Chen Guang’ project from Shanghai Municipal Education Commission and Shanghai Education Development Foundation (Grant No. 15CG06) and Shanghai Rising-Star Program (Grant No: 18QA1402200). G.C. and G.N. received funding support from the MIT S3TEC Center, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences under Award # DE-FG02-09ER46577 (for the experimental facility) and MIT J-WAFS Solutions Program (for water treatment). J.Z. received financial support from the National Key Research and Development Program of China (No. 2017YFA0205700), the State Key Program for Basic Research of China (Grant No. 2015CB659300) and National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 11621091, 11574143).