Assistant Professor Thomas Cooper from the Department of Mechanical Engineering was part of a team of researchers at MIT that built a device able to soak up enough heat from the sun to boil water and produce “superheated” steam hotter than 100 degrees Celsius, without any expensive optics.
“It’s a completely passive system — you just leave it outside to absorb sunlight,” says Professor Cooper, who led the work as a postdoc at MIT. “You could scale this up to something that could be used in remote climates to generate enough drinking water for a family or sterilize equipment for one operating room,” he says.
Professor Cooper brings this know-how to Lassonde where his current research is focused on new ways of harnessing sunlight and converting it into useful forms.
Key to this is the development of photothermal materials that convert light into heat, and how these materials in turn enable new solar energy devices. These devices can deliver heat over a wide range of temperatures, from 100°C all the way up to nearly 2000°C.
This wide range of temperature opens the door to a broad set of applications including: space and water heating; industrial process heat; displacing the combustion of fossil fuels in traditional power plants; and even the production of materials and fuels using sunlight.
Professor Cooper and his team’s results are detailed in a paper published today in Nature Communications.
We are excited to have Professor Cooper here at Lassonde to continue this exciting work!