New solar panels will not only provide energy, but also purify water

The problems of lack of water and available energy go hand in hand. If you do not have an abundant source of water, there is nothing to generate the steam needed to rotate the turbines of power plants. No energy - equipment for pumping water from wells does not work. And if there is no water in the desert, then there is nothing to wash off the dust from the solar panels, which leads to minimization of energy production. They tried to solve this issue in one fell swoop at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.

Arab scientists and engineers took as a basis the classical idea of ​​using photovoltaics to disinfect water by distillation. But we have developed a new technological solution for its practical implementation. It is a complex of membranes and containers for pumping liquids, which is topped with a typical solar battery. An important point is not the most advanced and efficient, on the contrary, a cheap model with low efficiency, in which most of the captured solar energy is wasted on useless heating.

When the battery starts to work and generate electricity, the system simultaneously removes excess heat down to the dirty water pipes. It heats up, turns into steam and moves to the condensation zone. The distillation process takes place, with the purification of water from impurities, while the heat given off by the steam is not wasted, but is transferred further through the system for the next heating-cooling cycle. The credit of Arab designers in designing the optimal architecture of a multilayer system that distills 1.6 liters of seawater per hour without reducing the generation of electricity from sunlight.

In 2016, desalination of seawater provided 3% of the drinking water in the Middle East, but this took 5% of the region's electricity. There are many uninhabited areas on the border of the desert and the sea, where it is possible to install power plants with a new type of desalination function. And thereby to solve two problems at once - to obtain an environmentally friendly source of energy, plus a source of the cherished moisture in one whole.