Conformal Microfluidic-Blow-Spun 3D Photothermal Catalytic Spherical Evaporator for Omnidirectional Enhanced Solar Steam Generation and CO2 Reduction

Adv Sci (Weinh). 2021 Oct;8(19):e2101232. doi: 10.1002/advs.202101232. Epub 2021 Aug 7.


Solar-driven water evaporation and valuable fuel generation is an environmentally friendly and sustainable way for clean water and energy production. However, a few bottlenecks for practical applications are high-cost, low productivity, and severe sunlight angle dependence. Herein, solar evaporation with enhanced photocatalytic capacity that is light direction insensitive and of efficiency breakthrough by virtue of a three-dimensional (3D) photothermal catalytic spherical isotopic evaporator is demonstrated. A homogeneous layer of microfluidic blow spun polyamide nanofibers loaded with efficient light absorber of polypyrrole nanoparticles conformally wraps onto a lightweight, thermal insulating plastic sphere, featuring favorable interfacial solar heating and efficient water transportation. The 3D spherical geometry not only guarantees the omnidirectional solar absorbance by the light-facing hemisphere, but also keeps the other hemisphere under shadow to harvest energy from the warmer environment. As a result, the light-to-vapor efficiency exceeds the theoretical limit, reaching 217% and 156% under 1 and 2 sun, respectively. Simultaneously, CO2 photoreduction with generated steam reveals a favorable clean fuels production rate using photocatalytic spherical evaporator by secondary growth of Cu2 O nanoparticles. Finally, an outdoor demonstration manifests a high evaporation rate and easy-to-perform construction on-site, providing a promising opportunity for efficient and decentralized water and clean fuel production.

Keywords: CO2 reduction; desalination; interfacial solar steam generation; microfluidic blow spinning; omnidirectional absorbance; photocatalysis.