Zheng’s Research Featured on Covers of Royal Society of Chemistry Journals

MIE Associate Professor Yi Zheng’s research has been featured on covers of two Royal Society of Chemistry journals – Nanoscale and Journal of Chemistry Materials A. Zheng’s Nano Energy Group has recently designed and demonstrated natural biomass-based solar-driven water desalinators. They are composed of forest waste (maple tree leaves) or ocean waste (chitosan and cuttlefish ink), continuously transporting water to the evaporation surface and effectively absorbing solar energy and converting it into heat.

  • Forest Waste to Clean Water: Natural Leaf-guar-derived Solar Desalinator (Nanoscale, 2021, 13, 17754) – featured on front cover
    • Abstract: Water scarcity and waste mismanagement are global crises that threaten the health of populations worldwide and a sustainable future. In order to help mitigate both these issues, a solar desalination device composed entirely of fallen leaves and guar – both natural materials – has been developed and demonstrated herein. This sustainable desalinator realizes an evaporation rate of 2.53 kg m−2 h−1 under 1 sun irradiance, and achieves consistent performance over an extended exposure period. Furthermore, it functions efficiently under a variety of solar intensities and in high salinity environments, and can produce water at salinities well within the acceptable levels for human consumption. Such strong performance in a large variety of environmental conditions is made possible by its excellent solar absorption, superb and rapid water absorption, low thermal conductivity, and considerable salt rejection abilities. Composed primarily of biowaste material and boasting a simple fabrication process, this leaf-guar desalinator provides a low-cost and sustainable avenue for alleviating water scarcity and supporting a green path forward.
  • Seawater Desalination Derived Entirely from Ocean Biomass (J. Mater. Chem. A, 2021, 9, 22313) – featured on back cover
    • Abstract: Solar-driven interfacial evaporation shows great prospects for seawater desalination with its rapid fast evaporation rate and high photothermal conversion efficiency. Here, a sustainable, biodegradable, non-toxic, and highly efficient full ocean biomass-based solar-driven evaporator is reported, which is composed of chitosan (CS) hydrogel as the hydratable skeleton and cuttlefish ink (CI) as the photothermal material. Under solar irradiation, the cuttlefish ink powder harvests solar energy and heats the surrounding water. Simultaneously, the water in the three-dimensional network of chitosan hydrogel is rapidly replenished by the interconnected porous structure and the hydrophilic functional groups attached to the polymer chains. With its enlarged evaporation surface, high solar absorptance, adequate water transportation, good salt drainage, and heat localization, the CI/CS-based evaporator achieves a remarkable evaporation rate of 4.1 kg m−2 h−1 under one sun irradiance (1 kW m−2) with high-quality freshwater yields. This full ocean biomass-based evaporator with abundant raw material availability provides new possibilities for an efficient, stable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly solar evaporator with guaranteed water quality.

Related Faculty: Yi Zheng

Related Departments:Mechanical & Industrial Engineering