Innovation That Matters

Bubble-wrap device boils water, generates steam

Property & Construction

MIT researchers created a low-tech method for boiling water from sunlight, even on overcast days, using bubble wrap, a sponge and a thin copper plate.

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Using simple materials, easily procured, an MIT-led (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) team of engineers developed an electricity and flame free method of boiling water. Called a Solar Vapor Generator, the device is inexpensive, quick to build and doesn’t require direct sunlight to work. The Generator is able to capture enough ambient light to boil water even on overcast days.

Built from a sponge, thin copper sheet and a spectrally-selective absorber that absorbs sunlight and traps heat, the design team believes the device could be used in a variety of environments. Potential applications include residential heating, medical equipment sterilization and wastewater treatment. Development plans for the device include larger-scale production and further testing.

Other recent advancements in the capture and conversion of sunlight include photovoltaic ink that creates energy and graphene-coated solar cells that generate electricity from rain. How else could alternative methods of capture broaden the use of other renewable energy sources?

Email: georgeni@MIT.EDU


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