Exploring the Future of Desalination

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Exploring the Future of Desalination

A Comprehensive Review of Interfacial Solar Evaporation Systems

Interfacial Solar Evaporation Strategies

Diagram of the three broad strategies for constructing efficient interfacial solar evaporation systems to relieve worldwide freshwater shortages. Credit: Nano Research Energy, Tsinghua University Press

ISE technology offers sustainable solutions for clean water production, with researchers proposing strategies for practical applications.

Interfacial solar evaporation (ISE) is a promising desalination technology that harnesses solar energy to purify water in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way. Researchers have recently published a review study in the journal Nano Research Energy, examining strategies for constructing efficient ISE systems. They offer five recommendations for advancing the technology towards practical applications, including introducing new energy sources, exploring novel photothermal materials, creating innovative photothermal evaporator designs, improving water production in limited spaces, and developing large-scale ISE systems. The team believes that ISE has the potential to address global clean water scarcity issues but acknowledges that more work is needed to advance real-world applications.


Freshwater is essential for human life and the scarcity of freshwater is a critical issue in parts of the world today. In recent years, scientists have put great efforts into developing desalination technologies so that clean water can be produced from seawater. Interfacial solar evaporation (ISE) is a technology that holds promise for helping to relieve worldwide freshwater shortages. A team of researchers has undertaken a review study of the strategies available for constructing efficient ISE systems.

Their work is published recently in the journal  Nano Research Energy .

The team’s paper examines the energy nexus in two-dimensional and three-dimensional solar evaporators and reviews the strategies for design and fabrication of highly efficient ISE systems. Their summarized work offers perspectives for guiding the future design of ISE systems toward practical applications.


ISE is a desalination technology that produces freshwater through a process that is both environmentally friendly and sustainable. With this technology, solar energy is harnessed to evaporate and purify water. The technology uses photothermal evaporators to convert heat from sunlight to be localized at the evaporation surface for efficient vapor generation instead of dissipation into the bulk water and environment.

Traditional desalination technologies such as membrane filtration and thermal distillation consume large amounts of electricity derived from fossil fuels, so they are not considered to be environmentally friendly. Scientists continue to search for new desalination technologies that use green and sustainable energy sources. Recent work in ISE technologies has been focused primarily on optimizing energy management. Researchers have improved photothermal material and evaporator design with a goal of attaining more efficient energy use. This is achieved through three pathways: minimizing the energy loss from evaporation system to the environment, extending the energy input from the environment to enhance the evaporation process, and reducing evaporation enthalpy so the vaporization process is more efficient.

The team’s review systematically summarizes these pathways for enhancing practical solar evaporation performance. “We clearly demonstrate that the evaporation rate can be significantly enhanced by either applying materials with highly efficient light-to-heat conversion or structure design of state-of-art evaporators with smart energy management strategies,” said Li Yu, a professor at the Shenzhen Technology University.

“The main principles for achieving highly efficient solar evaporation include avoiding energy loss from the evaporation systems to the environment, expanding energy input from the surrounding air and bulk water, making full use of the existing energy already in the evaporation systems, and lowering the evaporation enthalpy,” said Haolan Xu, a professor at the University of South Australia.