A highly efficient and sustainable photoabsorber in solar-driven seawater desalination and wastewater purification

RSC Adv. 2023 Jun 14;13(26):17935-17946. doi: 10.1039/d3ra01938a. eCollection 2023 Jun 9.


Producing freshwater from seawater and wastewater is of great importance through interfacial solar steam generation (ISSG). Herein, the three-dimensional (3D) carbonized pine cone, CPC1, was fabricated via a one-step carbonization process as a low-cost, robust, efficient, and scalable photoabsorber for the ISSG of seawater as well as a sorbent/photocatalyst for use in wastewater purification. Taking advantage of the large solar-light-harvesting ability of CPC1 due to the presence of carbon black layers on the 3D structure, its inherent porosity, rapid water transportation, large water/air interface, and low thermal conductivity, a conversion efficiency of 99.8% and evaporation flux of 1.65 kg m-2 h-1 under 1 sun (kW m-2) illumination were achieved. After carbonization of the pine cone, its surface becomes black and rough, which leads to an increase in its light absorption in the UV-Vis-NIR region. The photothermal conversion efficiency and evaporation flux of CPC1 did not change significantly during 10 evaporation-condensation cycles. CPC1 exhibited good stability under corrosive conditions without significant change in its evaporation flux. More importantly, CPC1 can be used to purify seawater or wastewater by the removal of organic dyes as well as by the reduction of polluting ions, like nitrate ions in sewage.