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Sponge Creates Steam Using Ambient Sunlight

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Aug 30, 2016 9:52:53 AM

Bubble-wrap is the key to this device that soaks up even ambient sunlight and heats water to boiling temperatures, generating steam through its pores.

A science fair project by the Mechanical Engineering Department Head's daughter inspired the use of the bubble-wrap, which minimized heat loss enough that their device heated water to boiling even on cool, cloudy days. 

MIT Sun Steam

Bubble wrap, combined with a selective absorber, keeps heat from escaping the surface of the sponge.  Photo: George Ni

From the article:

Chen proposed the packing material to Ni, as a cost-effective way to prevent heat loss by convection. This approach would let sunlight in through the material’s transparent wrapping, while trapping air in its insulating bubbles.

“I was very skeptical of the idea at first,” Ni recalls. “I thought it was not a high-performance material. But we tried the clearer bubble wrap with bigger bubbles for more air trapping effect, and it turns out, it works. Now because of this bubble wrap, we don’t need mirrors to concentrate the sun.”

Read the entire article on MIT's website.

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