Improved light-harvesting and thermal management for efficient solar-driven water evaporation using 3D photothermal cones†
Solar-driven evaporation based on photothermal membrane has been proved to be promising in the field of fresh water generation, and it is considered as an emerging strategy both in laboratory and in industrial scales. However, further research efforts have to be made on light harvesting and thermal management to improve water evaporation. In this study, an extensive research was carried out to develop a bio-inspired 3D photothermal cone for high-efficiency solar-driven evaporation with minimum light reflection and heat loss to bulk water. The artificial photothermal cone with a polypyrrole (PPy) coating layer was facilely fabricated via chemical vapor deposition polymerization (CVDP). The present 3D cone with a rationally designed conical structure exhibited satisfactory absorbance around 99.2% in the entire solar spectrum, which is comparable with the performances of super-black materials. Additionally, the heat loss has been minimized by elevating the photothermal cone to narrow the contact area between water and the PPy-based cone with good wettability, thus achieving a highly efficient interface heating. The solar conversion efficiency up to 93.8% for evaporation was achieved for the photothermal cone under one sun illumination, which is about 1.7 times as high as the result obtained for a plane film. Based on our results, controlling the 3D morphology can be considered as an important strategy for designing a novel high-efficiency photothermal membrane and also, it provides new opportunities in practical application.