Saudi scientists have developed solar panels that absorb water vapor. The target? Make water from green energy to improve access to drinking water in regions with arid climate.
Their method was developed using photovoltaic solar panels and a hydrogel that make it possible to use water from the air while producing electricity. The study, published in the journal Cell reports Physical Sciencedescribes a strategy “durable and cheap” that could improve the food and water security of populations in regions with arid climate.
“A fraction of the world’s population still has no access to drinking water or green energy, and many live in rural areas with a (semi) arid climate”explains the lead author of the work Peng Wang, professor of environmental sciences and engineering at King Abdullah University of Sciences and Technologies (Saudi Arabia), in a press release.
The device, called WEC2P, has a large metal box that is used to condense the heat from the solar panels and convert it into water. “Our design creates water from air using clean energy that would have been wasted and is suitable for small decentralized operations in remote locations such as deserts and ocean islands”says Professor Wang.
The hydrogel increases the efficiency of photovoltaic solar panels by up to 9% by absorbing heat and lowering the temperature of the panels, the study said. An energy potential that can be used to illuminate habitats or to water agricultural crops.
To test their method, the researchers conducted a two-week experiment in Saudi Arabia in June (a very hot period in this region). Water extracted from the ambient air via the solar panels was used to irrigate 60 water spinach seeds planted in a plastic grow box.
The solar panel generated a total of 1,519 watts of electricity and 57 of the 60 spinach seeds sprouted, grew and reached a height of 18 centimeters. About two liters of water condensed from the hydrogel over the course of two weeks.
To optimize this prototype and deploy their creation on a larger scale, the team of scientists plans to create a better hydrogel that can absorb more water from the air. “Our goal is to create an integrated clean energy system, which sets us apart from today’s agrophotovoltaic systems, especially for the part related to water creation‘, say the researchers.
(ETX Daily Up)