American Chemical Society
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Scalable Ultralight Wood-Inspired Aerogel with Vertically Aligned Micrometer Channels for Highly Efficient Solar Interfacial Desalination

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-10-18, 19:59 authored by Qingyuan Zhang, Yu Chen, Yating Wang, Jiajun He, Peng Yang, Yu Wang, Shaochun Tang
An ultralight material that simultaneously combines remarkably rapid water transportation, highly efficient photothermal conversion, and excellent thermal insulation is highly desired for solar-driven interfacial desalination but was challenging. In this work, inspired by the unique natural structure of wood, we developed an ultralight aerogel by ice-templated synthesis as an integrated interfacial evaporator for solar-driven water production. The interior features vertically aligned biomimetic microscale channels facilitating rapid transportation of water molecules, while an improved photothermal interface allows high solar absorption and conversion via nonradiative relaxation and molecular vibrations. The biomimetic aerogel is ultralight with a density as low as 0.06 g/cm3, especially its fabrication is size- and shape-programmable as a whole and easily scalable. Additionally, the outstanding thermal insulation of the aerogel focuses heat precisely at the evaporation interface, reducing ineffective heat loss, while the uniformly distributed large-sized channels promote the dynamic convection of high concentration salt ions on the evaporator surface. Consequently, the evaporator shows broadband light absorption of 92.7%, leading to a water evaporation rate reaching 4.55 kg m–2 h–1 under 3 simulated solar irradiations, much higher than that of other reported evaporators with randomly distributed pores. This work provides new insight into advanced hybrid aerogels for highly efficient and durable solar-driven interfacial desalination systems.