UAE’s Masdar, MIT develop solar technology ‘without sunlight’.

A team of researchers from the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi and the US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a low-cost solar thermal energy conversion system that can easily generate steam from sunlight.

The solar conversion system can help make technologies that rely on steam, like seawater desalination, wastewater treatment, residential water heating, medical tool sterilization and power generation, more efficient and affordable, news agency WAM reported.

The new receiver device floats on water, converting 20 percent of incoming solar energy into steam at 100 degrees Celsius without expensive optical concentration devices and is made of cheap, commercially available materials, including bubble wrap and a polystyrene (plastic) foam, it added.

“This project is an excellent demonstration of how international collaboration and use-inspired research can yield cutting-edge scientific findings that have direct applications to the sectors that are at the core of the UAE’s continued evolution toward an innovation and knowledge-based economy,” said Dr Steve Griffiths, vice president for Research and Associate Provost at the Masdar Institute.

“The system we have developed enables us to generate steam with solar energy without having to rely on direct sunlight,” Dr TieJun Zhang, Masdar Institute’s assistant professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering added.

“The technology is particularly suited for the UAE’s dusty climate, as it fully uses the entire spectrum of sunlight for thermal applications rather than just the direct portion, which can be hindered by the aerosols,” he said.

The solar receiver was validated at MIT, where it demonstrated the ability to rapidly reach 100C and generate steam during periods of low direct sunlight, such as during non-summer months and under heavy cloud cover.

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