Today in mind-bendingly cool stuff that nanoparticles can do: A team of researchers at Rice University in Texas has demonstrated a mechanism by which they can create steam in just seconds by focusing sunlight on a mixture of water and nanoparticles. This isn't just some artificial means of lowering boiling point either; this solar powered "boiler" can produce steam before the water even gets warm to the touch, without ever bringing the aggregate water to a boil.
Right now this research is very much still in the lab, and the researchers aren't yet sure exactly how far they can push it. But it doesn't take much to imagine the possibilities for a steam generator that runs solely on water and sunlight.
The technology works by mixing a small amount of either carbon or gold-coated silicon dioxide nanoparticles, each just one-tenth the diameter of a single human hair, with water in a glass vessel. Their small diameters--smaller than the wavelength of visible light--means that they can absorb most of a light wave's energy rather than scattering it. So when sunlight is focused on the vessel with a lens, the particles quickly become quite hot--hot enough to vaporize the water directly surrounding it.
This creates a bubble of steam that envelopes the nanoparticle, which is now insulated from the cooler liquid water by the steam, which allows it to grow hotter still, vaporizing more of the water immediately around it. At some point the nanoparticle and its steam envelope become large enough to grow buoyant, at which point the whole steam bubble--particle and all--floats to the surface. The steam is released into the air, the particle falls back into the cooler water and sinks back down until it begins to absorb sunlight and heat again, at which point the process starts all over.
Multiply that by the number of nanoparticles in the mixture, and you have something of a simulated boil, but one that doesn't require the entire pot of water to reach boiling point before the first steam bubbles head to the surface. You can think of it as a way of micromanaging the boiling process, specifically heating some parts of the water (where it touches the nanoparticles) while leaving the rest of the water cool. And the particles themselves are completely durable--they keep absorbing, heating, cooling, and absorbing again, with no need to replace them.
Pretty nuts, no? It spells an interesting future for solar power in general, but more specifically it's easy to see how a cheap and abundant source of steam, even in low specific volumes, could be used to do anything from generate electricity and heat to lower the energy intensive nature of certain processes like water desalinization. As the WaPo points out, the last time someone came up with a cheap and easy way to generate and harness abundant steam it completely changed the world. So there's that.
Considering water in a natural environment becomes clouds, there must be a simple reason.
I see a great energy potential coming from this new development. If water can naturally rise up hill and then be stored in tanks to later run down a pipe, we all then have a natural sun cycle storage of power, via a hydro electric generator.
Say goodbye to your residential and industrial water softener and even reverse osmosis systems. A system utilizing these nano particles and lit by a bank of LED's will be the likely replacement if this technology can be commercialized.
This sounds absolutely revolutionary!
It takes reaction to turn stone to gas, then it takes reaction to turn gas to water and again reaction to turn water to gas, reaction then turns gas back into rock. (comet, astroid, earth and yes also the sun as fire is at the nucleus of all these.
When some one say's your a ball of fire, well you really are!
As all cells have a nucleus, we are unable to get to the center of our planet but we can study a water cell. To do this first understand that the nucleus of any cell is made up of orbiting nuclei so small as to not interact with matter as we know it.
You will find at the nucleus what will be to you as air pockets or bubbles and if studing the universe instead of this ice cube you would call these black holes.
Now your really going to want to call these black holes oxygen and hydrogen but when you know the secret way of causing a reaction that has these many particals running into each other then you to can discover the fire in your ice cube.
i think that we should be sensible about this and realize that the gold and carbon nano particles aren't going to fall back into the solution, especially with a strong updraft caused by the steam that's no doubt rising. it'd be different if the particles had some weight to them but remember this is nano particles, a few of them are probably still bustling through the air even five hours after you dumped them into any solution.
that's not to say that this isn't a very good idea, it is, it's scalable in both directions; if we use the same concentration of nano particles in consecutively larger vats of water then the efficiency of the water to steam conversion should stay the same and only drop off because the water is absorbing sunlight as well. basically what i'm suggesting is that a small vat could make two liter's per second and a vat twice the size could make four liter's per second. and if we add more nano particles to the system then the efficiency should only get better.
the biggest question i have is whether or not gold and or carbon nanoparticles explode when exposed to sunlight, even without water.
to mars or bust!
Bruce i think your comment jsut gave me cancer.....
While your concern about floating nanoparticles is very sound, ghost, I'm hopeful that the direct mention of that not happening in the article is more truth than stretch.
And even if it isn't, I'm thinking you could still have this setup in a closed system so the nanoparticles can't escape to the air. Even with that limitation this steam can still be used to generate electricity in mind-numbingly awesome ways.
Honey, before you go the beach, I made you some nice tea!!!!
Oh thanks honey, I love you!
Some hours later it is reported a man on the beach EXPLODED!
More details at ten, TV channel ABCD.
As this says, there's no need to replace the nanoparticles. Geez, people.
On Topic; The greatest benefit in this is that it is the creation of the steam that takes the most energy in all the systems up til now. This development is significant enough to bring viability and steam power back together again.
Has Rice put out a steampunk sweatshirt yet?
Sounds like a cool deal, what if they strung the nano-particles together and placed them just below the surface. they would break the water tension release the steam and fall back into the water, or better yet put a fair amount on a rotating cylinder as they build up heat they get closer to the surface release the energy and start back down to collect the heat/steam; set at the right speed you would get a continuious production of steam.
I doubt this actually creates more steam versus any traditional method. Unless this somehow captures more energy, it will be a novelty item.
@Jefro, I don't think it's about capturing energy so much as getting the job done cheaply. Sunlight is free, water and sand are cheap, liberated carbon is so abundant the government will actually pay you to capture it out of the air. This is a very cost effective way to produce electricity, and it's pretty green..
Could be a game changer if it works as advertised. The condensate would be recaptured and reused as it is in any closed loop system, no need to worry about any escaping nanoparticles (minus the inevitable steam leak).
This comment came from the link in the article, "...The nanoparticles — either carbon or gold-coated silicon dioxide beads — have a diameter shorter than the wavelength of visible light...". I wonder how toxic this nanoparticle is? And if the nanoparticle is not toxic are they manageable to stay not toxic?
The energy possibilities of this technology seems great, with the only possible limitation being 'if' it harmful.
"...In all, about 80 percent of the light energy a nanoparticle absorbs goes into making steam, and only 20 percent is “lost” in heating the water. This is far different from creating steam in a tea kettle. There, all the water must reach boiling temperature before an appreciable number of water molecules fly into the air as steam...." & "... Halas said the nanoparticles are not expensive to make and, because they act essentially as catalysts, are not used up. A nanoparticle steam generator could be used over and over. And, as James Watt and other 18th-century inventors showed, if you can generate steam easily, you can create an industrial revolution...".
THIS IS SO COOL!
This is exciting. What separates this from perpetual motion is that we feed it sunlight and water. Sine water becomes steam and sunlight is bountiful, then the only energy used is sunlight. Is this better than photovoltaic cells?
This article does explain the sterilizing properties of nanotubes. It explains their ability to turn light into boiling sterilizing water vapor. If nanotubes are not carcinogenic in the body they could be used to precisely target and destroy brain tumors without any radiation to root canals, and treatment for type 2 diabetes.
For a brain tumor a catheter is inserted into a relevant artery into the brain. Nanotubes are then injected into the region. Like in cybernife surgery gold locaters are injected (in the form of alginate for long lasting markers): Then the active location of the tumor is located, and precisely targeted by inferred light laser on a robotic arm. Thereby boiling the tumor without any radiation.
For a root canal rather than using files, to remove the root, nanotubes are injected into it. Then light is used to boil the root away without even heating the surrounding tissue. The nanotubes are destroyed with an acid rinse, and the tooth is left sterile for placing a cap, and without a chancy long expensive surgery.
For Type 2 diabetes the back vegus nerve is severed in the same way the brain tumor was removed, but the front nerve is temporarily severed by removing the axons by placing a coil of Botox in the form of alginate, bioplastic, or hydro gel. This temporary effect drops the person out of diabetes like stomach bypass does but without any surgery or large risks like infection. Although vagatomy is only half the weight loss of stomach bypass, and not permanent it can be done by injections rather than surgery. It can be repeated, and advantage, if it is applied with the use of Botox.
I remember a while ago, PoPSci showed this video of this man flapping his man made wings and flying, later to be a fake.
If this technology is good, efficient, useful, non-toxic, we will see more of it.
First I find you comments very amusing and I find that I agree with some of your view points.
However you really need to check your facts before you spam an article.
It is far easier to create electricy through a hydro electric system. Popsci has run a feature article on a handy little camp fire stove that use the potential differance in temperature to generate electricty that you can then plug your cell phone into and charge:) The break through tech here is how you don't waste any energy to generate energy. However you do bring interesting posibilties to clean water recovery from deep underground wells:)
Also look up human powered flight and you will find real university teams that are competing with various aeronauticle designs. (ie. helicopters and fixed wing, as well as flapping the arms) Again covered by Popsci.
And people read the article closer!! It says that when the nano particles break the surface they release the steam and settle back down only to be reheated and rise again from the ashes like the mighty phenix!!!
Optimistically in my heart, I hope this new technology arrives. In this article and the link in this article that explains more, it reads with great potentional.
I just say caution in the fact, if it is so wonderful we will read and learn more about it or if this is just nicely written optimistic fanasty article, sadly this new technolgy will fad away.
What is wrong with me just waiting a little while, prior to me actually making my applause?
I finally got around to reading this and it's mind blowing to me for one main reason. A few years ago Charles Anderson and I shot a documentary on geothermal power generation where they were taking water not hot enough to boil and turning it into steam to power a generator. They used R134a refrigerant that has a lower boiling point than water to turn to steam by being heated from the 160 degree hot spring water they had on site. They would then recapture the steam, condense it from the cold water on site, pump it over to the hot side and start the cycle all over again. If you had enough of these nano particles, you could put them in a closed loop system and generate steam to run a turbine in almost any climate. This could quite literally make clean unending power. It's why I suspect we won't hear much about this in the future, the big power companies won't want this one to get out. If you want to see the geothermal low heat power generation documentary you can do a you tube search for "What in the World? - Chena Hot Springs Geothermal Power Production - Season 1: Episode 2".
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Such a simple idea, with simple and cheap methods for generating electricity and/or capturing hydrogen. Really they have given away to much already to prevent backyard scientists from creating there own, practically free energy.
There should be interesting applications for the technology, but I doubt power generation will be one of them.
So, what's the beef with getting it done cheaply? Put on some telescoping liquid crystal interface layering system or other and a minimalist board, and yer cookin my coffee, son.
If the creation of nanogold or any other nanothing is a problem, we could always use ultrasonics and liquid nitrogen on regular gold flake. For the regular person's rooftop, it's not going to matter if the nanoparticles in his system are purer than flake, the most common form of gold. They could be making nanogold by the bucketful in no time. And yeah, I do know that a bucket of nanogold would go a long way.
I can easily conceive of power systems that could use a bucketful at a time too. Point something a bit bigger than Hubble at it's photon collector from orbit.
Probably wouldn't even need nitrogen.
Gratified to see it coming from Rice in Space City, Texas.
This sounds like a very promising technology. With any groundbreaking technology they're are always concerns to consider. One thing that stands out to me is what if these particles make it into the environment? I'm not sure if these particles are buoyant or heavy and sink to the bottom but if they make it into the environment in sufficient quantities they may make it into our oceans and start creating steam and therefore upsetting the balance of nature.
They said it themselves, the particles do not need to heat the surrounding water to create steam. This would be very unnatural in the environment.
If this technology is as promising as it sounds, it will soon be mass produced in high quantities and eventually will make it out into the environment. This will excel the global warming of our planet by converting the sunlight more efficiently by converting it into steam and heating our atmosphere.