Cellulose paper support with dual-layered nano–microstructures for enhanced plasmonic photothermal heating and solar vapor generation†
Plasmonic nanoparticles, such as gold nanoparticles (AuNPs), have been actively applied in solar vapor generation for seawater desalination and water purification, owing to their photothermal heating performances. Such nanoparticles have been frequently anchored within porous supporting materials to ensure easy handling and water absorption. However, there has been limited progress in improving the transport efficiency of light to nanoparticles within porous supports to achieve more effective photothermal heating. Here, we show an enhanced light absorption of AuNPs by supporting on a cellulose paper with tailored porous structures for efficient photothermal heating. The paper consists of AuNP-anchored cellulose nanofibers and cellulose pulp as the top and bottom layers, respectively, which provides dual-layered porous nano–microstructures in the perpendicular direction. Then, the bottom layer with pulp-derived microstructures reflects the transmitted light back to AuNPs within the top layer, which improves their light absorptivity. Thus, under 1 sun illumination, the dual-layered paper demonstrates superior performance in photothermal heating (increases from 28 °C to 46 °C) and solar vapor generation (1.72 kg m−2 h−1) compared with the single-layered AuNP-anchored cellulose nanofiber paper even at the same AuNP content. Furthermore, the water evaporation rate per AuNP content of the dual-layered paper is more than 2 times higher than those of the state-of-the-art AuNP-anchored porous materials under the same light irradiation. This strategy enables the efficient use of precious plasmonic nanoparticles for further development of solar vapor generation.