Lead University: Carnegie Mellon University
PI: Sheng Shen, Mechanical Engineering
Co-PIs: Shi-Chune Yao, Mechanical Engineering; Do Xiao, Physics

Solar energy is generally unlimited and clean, and therefore has been broadly recognized as one of the most promising renewable energy sources. As a device that converts solar radiation into the thermal energy for heating water, a solar water heater is suitable for both industrial and household applications due to its ease of operation, scalability, and simple maintenance. In this project, we will collaborate with Epiphany Solar Water Systems, who is a Pennsylvania based manufacturer of concentrated solar powered water purification systems, to develop a novel and low-cost solar water heater using high-efficiency, flexible nanophotonic absorbers. The proposed joint research between CMU and Epiphany will include thermal/optical simulation and design, system integration, and field test under ambient sunlight.

Solar water heating and purification provides us a promising pathway towards substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions and therefore significantly contributes to the environment and sustainable cities in PA. The integration of high-efficiency nanophotonic solar absorbers will facilitate transformative advancements in the performance and design of solar water heating and purification systems. The process and the structure that we are pursuing lend themselves very nicely to large-scale and low-cost production, which will be very desirable for market launch. If successful, it is projected that the new material and fabrication technology will result in significant reduction of the price of solar water heating and purification systems.