Scientists may have found a more efficient way to desalinate water using solar power, according to new research, offering a solution for global water scarcity through the use of renewable energy. .
Researchers at Nankai University in Tianjin, China, have developed the concept of a solar-powered desalination system that produces fresh water by using intelligent DNA hydrogels without using more energy, compared to conventional Desalination strategies used today, such as reverse osmosis, use a lot of energy, according to a paper published in the journal Science Advances on Thursday.
The same process can be used simultaneously to extract uranium from seawater or treat uranyl with nuclear wastewater, the researchers said.
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The new solar-powered concept, which creates a DNA hydrogel matrix, includes the ability to absorb sunlight and reduce the amount of energy needed to evaporate water.
In addition, the intelligent DNA hydrogels used in the new concept include DNA molecules that can be used to respond to various stimuli, such as changes in pH or metal ions, and therefore can be used to remove uranyl ions found in low concentrations in seawater, according to the paper.
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The matrix uses DNA-tethered polyacrylamide networks aimed at the target of uranyl and is also filled with graphene oxide, a typical material used to absorb solar radiation, according to the study.
Uranium, the main fuel for nuclear energy, and other valuable minerals and resources can be extracted from seawater with the new process, Guo said, adding that DNA structures can be programmed to capture other targets, such as lithium ions.
Experiments conducted in the Bohai Sea in northeastern China found that a new solar-powered process, using a DNA hydrogel matrix filled with graphene oxide, can effectively evaporate water at a rate of 3.54 kilograms per square meter per hour, the researchers found.
In addition, the process can extract uranyl ions with 10.4 times higher selectivity than vanadium, the best-known interfering ionic species for uranium extraction, according to the paper.
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The new process will solve future water supply issues using renewable energy, which will limit the amount of emissions released.
However, hurdles remain for such a system to work on a larger scale, the researchers said.
Critics have long argued that current desalination methods are expensive, ineffective and damaging to local ecosystems.
But solar desalination has become a promising alternative to energy-intensive technologies used today, such as reverse osmosis, Guo said.
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In 2019, researchers began investigating a light-absorbing hydrogel for use in solar desalination, and outlined the paths and challenges for solar desalination, according to recent papers.
“With the further development of automated DNA synthesis and other technologies, the system demonstrated in this study is expected to demonstrate the potential of developing smart integrated devices for large-scale applications, especially in the acquisition of fresh water and important mineral resources with low energy. consumption,” said Guo.
Scientists find new way to desalinate seawater using solar power, study says originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
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