Although seawater is abundant, desalination is energy intensive and expensive. Using the Sun as an energy source is attractive for desalinating seawater. Although interesting, current passive devices with no moving parts have unsatisfactory performance when operated with an energy flux lower than 1 kW m−2 (one sun). We present a passive multi-stage and low-cost solar distiller, where efficient energy management leads to significant enhancement in freshwater yield. Each unit stage for complete distillation is made of two hydrophilic layers separated by a hydrophobic microporous membrane, with no other mechanical ancillaries. Under realistic conditions, we demonstrate a distillate flow rate of almost 3 l m−2 h−1 from seawater at less than one sun—twice the yield of recent passive complete distillation systems. Theoretical models also suggest that the concept has the potential to further double the observed distillate rate. In perspective, this system may help satisfy the freshwater needs in isolated and impoverished communities in a sustainable way.
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The authors declare that the data supporting the findings of this study are available within the paper and its Supplementary Information files.
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The authors are grateful to ‘Fondazione CRT—Torino’ under the NANOSTEP project (‘La Ricerca dei Talenti’ call; grant number 911/2015). E.C. acknowledges partial financial support from the Politecnico di Torino through the Starting Grant (grant number 56_RIL16CHE01). The authors also thank M. Bressan and R. Costantino for laboratory support, S. Pezzana (Almeco Group) for providing experimental materials, and P. Ornolio and the Marina di Varazze and Lega Navale Varazze institutions for hosting field tests of the floating distiller. In particular, we acknowledge L. Molin Pradel (Marina di Varazze) for generous hospitality. This work was performed under the auspices of the CleanWaterCenter@PoliTo (http://cleanwater.polito.it/).
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Supplementary Notes 1–5, Supplementary Figures 1–17, Supplementary Tables 1–4, Supplementary references 1–43.
Raw data on distillate flow rates from lab, rooftop and sea experiments on 1-stage, 3-stage, and 10-stage distillers using either no membrane, 0.1 μm membrane or 3.0 μm membrane.
Raw data on temperatures and irradiance from lab, rooftop, and sea experiments on 1-stage, 3-stage, and 10-stage distillers using either no membrane, 0.1 μm membrane, or 3.0 μm membrane.
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Chiavazzo, E., Morciano, M., Viglino, F. et al. Passive solar high-yield seawater desalination by modular and low-cost distillation. Nat Sustain 1, 763–772 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0186-x
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