Super-Efficient Solar Steam Technique

Rice University scientists have unveiled a new technology that uses nanoparticles to convert solar energy directly into steam. The new 'solar steam' method is so effective, it can produce steam from icy cold water. Steam is one of the world's most widely used industrial fluids. About 90 percent of electricity is produced from steam, and it is also used to sterilize medical waste and surgical instruments and to purify water. The new technology has an overall energy efficiency of 24 percent. Photovoltaic solar panels, by comparison, typically have an overall energy efficiency around 15 percent. The team expects the technology will first be used in sanitation and water-purification applications in the developing world.