Prototypes of the devices, which need no electricity or fuel, were the topic of one of the keynote addresses at the opening of the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society. The meeting, which features almost 7,000 reports on new advances in science and other topics, continues through Thursday in the Indiana Convention Center and downtown hotels.
Naomi Halas, D.Sc., pointed out that almost 2 billion people live in areas of the world without a regular supply of electricity. That electricity is key to using machines called autoclaves, which produce scorching-hot steam to sterilize medical and dental instruments. Without that basic machine, doctors must rely on chemicals, which can be costly and difficult to transport, to prevent the spread of germs and disease from medical and dental instruments.
"We have developed a solution, our solar steam technology," Halas said. She is with Rice University. "It is completely off-grid, uses sunlight as the energy source, is not that large, kills disease-causing microbes effectively and relatively quickly and is easy to operate. This is an incredibly promising technology."
Halas and colleagues have prototypes of two solar steam machines. One is the autoclave for sterilizing medical and dental instruments. The second is an autoclave for disinfecting human and animal wastes, which are another major source of disease transmission in developing countries and other resource-limited areas. The technology could be expanded to provide steam for direct use in purifying dirty or salty water for drinking and cooking — with the solar-generated steam simply allowed to condense into pure distilled water. Possibilities also exist for adapting the technology to produce steam to spin small electric turbines to generate electricity.
Their tests showed that the prototype autoclaves produced steam at temperatures ranging from 239 to 270 degrees Fahrenheit. Steam production adequate for sterilization began within about 5 minutes. It continued for periods of time long enough to sterilize liquid and solid materials placed inside the device, consistent with U.S. Food and Drug Administration sterilization guidelines. The heat and pressure produced by the steam was great enough to kill the most heat-resistant living microbes, and also viruses and the tough spores that microbes form to survive hostile environmental conditions.
The autoclaves are the first practical applications of a new solar energy technology described earlier in 2012 in ACS Nano, one of the ACS' more than 40 peer-reviewed scientific journals. Metallic nanoparticles — bits of material so small that hundreds would fit inside the period at the end of this sentence — go into a container of water. Sunlight focused into the water quickly heats the nanoparticles, which scientists are terming "nanoheaters." A layer of steam forms on the nanoheaters and buoys them up to the water's surface. They release the steam and sink back down into the water to repeat the process.
"Nanoheaters generate steam at a remarkably high efficiency," Halas said. "More than 80 percent of the energy they absorb from sunlight goes into production of steam. In the conventional production of steam, you would have to heat the entire container of water until it boils, with the bubbles rising to the top to release steam. With nanoheaters, less than 20 percent of the energy heats the neighboring liquid."
The prototype autoclaves consist of a dish-like mirror that focuses sunlight into a container of water with the nanoheaters.
A video on the solar heater technology is available here.
Halas recently formed a company that is working on moving the devices from the prototype stage to commercial products. She and her collaborators are seeking ways to make them more rugged and at a more reasonable cost. They are also exploring even more applications for the technology.
A press conference on this topic will be held Sunday, Sept. 8, at 1 p.m. in the ACS Press Center, Room 211, in the Indiana Convention Center. Reporters can attend in person or access live audio and video of the event and ask questions at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/acslive.
Halas acknowledged funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.
To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact email@example.com.
Note to journalists: Please report that this research was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Michael Bernstein | EurekAlert!
Bolstering fat cells offers potential new leukemia treatment
17.10.2017 | McMaster University
Ocean atmosphere rife with microbes
17.10.2017 | King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST)
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences
17.10.2017 | Earth Sciences