DOE News
    Doe Science news source
    The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
    • 2018-11-27 12:05:03
    • Article ID: 704483

    Why the future of water purification may involve Chinese ink

    • Credit: Argonne National Laboratory

      This shows a) Chinese ink and writing brush, similar to those used for writing and drawing for over 2000 years, b) digital and infrared images of the Chinese character “water” written in Chinese ink under simulated sunlight and c) a scheme of the fabrication process for ALD/Chinese‐ink‐coated materials.

    • Credit: Argonne National Laboratory

      This shows scanning electron microscopy images of nascent materials and Chinese‐ink‐coated materials before and after atomic layer deposition. It also shows energy dispersive spectroscopy mapping of the cross‐section of a Chinese‐ink‐coated membrane (e).

    A substance developed thousands of years ago could help accelerate solutions to the world's freshwater crisis. 

    Long used for calligraphy, Chinese ink possesses almost all of the qualities needed to help generate steam using sunlight — a critical strategy for purifying water in a resource-constrained world.

    From California to Dubai, dry climates, development and growing populations are driving demand for new sources of clean water. Alternative desalination strategies that address energy-intensity and cost would have a large-scale impact.

    At the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, researchers are exploring affordable photothermal materials that could absorb the sunlight necessary to evaporate water and recapture that water, leaving salt and contaminants behind. Instead of trying to heat a whole vat of water, for example, this solar steam approach aims to concentrate heat only at the surface, where evaporation occurs, by covering it with a light-absorbing material.

    "Chinese ink is a very effective material at absorbing that broad range of light, which makes it fantastic for this application of solar steam generation." — Seth Darling, director of Argonne’s Institute for Molecular Engineering and Advanced Materials for Energy-Water Systems (AMEWS) Center

    Wood, sponges, fabric and membranes are all good candidates for this purpose, because they can float and are porous enough to let the water seep up and evaporate. But those materials need help heating up under the sun.

    "We're looking for dark liquids that we can coat onto porous materials for this application," said Seth Darling, director of Argonne’s Institute for Molecular Engineering and Advanced Materials for Energy-Water Systems (AMEWS) Center.

    Ink, of course, quickly came to mind. Darling and a team of researchers including Hao-Cheng Yang, a postdoctoral researcher at Argonne's Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM), a DOE Office of Science User Facility, experimented with regular pen ink, but found it didn't coat uniformly across the varied surfaces.

    Yang thought back to his upbringing in China, where every child took a class in conventional calligraphy. He decided to explore the traditional ink from his childhood as a coating.

    Unlike the ink in modern pens, Chinese ink is designed to have staying power on surfaces of all kinds, from fabric to pottery. Made with soot, glue and a preservative, the ancient ink turned out to have the perfect combination of qualities for solar steam generation. The results of the ink experiments — titled “Chinese Ink: A Powerful Photothermal Material for Solar Steam Generation” — were published recently in Advanced Materials Interfaces.

    In addition to its ability to uniformly coat porous materials, Chinese ink's viscosity keeps it from penetrating too far down into the substrate. This helps focus the heating right at the surface, where it's needed. But the carbon-based paint's biggest asset may be its propensity to absorb light across the visible spectrum and into the infrared range, where most of the sun's energy lies.

    "This is a very effective material at absorbing that broad range of light," Darling said, "which makes it fantastic for this application of solar steam generation."

    One hitch: Chinese ink is water-soluble, so it wouldn't last long on its own in a steamy setting.

    The researchers used atomic layer deposition, a technique for depositing thin films, to apply a transparent coating of titanium dioxide over the ink, sealing it in place. Tested under simulated sunlight on various substrates, including wood and sponges, the combination proved to be a stable, potent steam generator. The coating integrates materials with broad light absorption, strong coating capability, water-attracting properties and extreme durability — a challenging set of characteristics to assemble into one system.

    Researchers at the Institute for Molecular Engineering and Argonne’s recently awarded AMEWS Center continue to explore materials and technologies that purify and conserve water.

    "Time will tell if Chinese ink — or some other fluid with similar properties — will see practical use out in the field," Darling said. But its low cost, versatility and abundance make Chinese ink an indelible addition to the choices.

    The Center for Nanoscale Materials is one of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers, premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale supported by the DOE Office of Science. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located at DOE’s Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge, Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. For more information about the DOE NSRCs, please visit https://science.energy.gov/bes/suf/user-facilities/nanoscale-science-research-centers/

    Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

    The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit the Office of Science website.

    X
    X
    X
    • Filters

    • × Clear Filters

    Ice Formed by Contact Freezing: Pressure Matters, Not Just Temperature

    Distortion of water droplet surface may increase the likelihood of the droplet freezing.

    Future Loss of Arctic Sea-Ice Cover Could Contribute to the Substantial Decrease in California's Rainfall

    A new modeling framework helps understand the consequences of future sea-ice loss in the Arctic.

    Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators

    Magnetic field lines tangled like spaghetti in a bowl might be behind the most powerful particle accelerators in the universe. That's the result of a new computational study by researchers from the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, which simulated particle emissions from distant active galaxies.

    Argonne scientists maximize the effectiveness of platinum in fuel cells

    In new research from the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and published in Science, scientists have identified a new catalyst that uses only about a quarter as much platinum as current technology by maximizing the effectiveness of the available platinum.

    Drawn into a Whirlpool: A New Way to Stop Dangerous Fast Electrons in a Fusion Device

    A new phenomena forms vortices that trap particles, impeding electron avalanches that harm fusion reactors.

    Barely scratching the surface: A new way to make robust membranes

    Argonne researchers have demonstrated a new technique's viability for membranes.

    During Droughts, Bacteria Help Sorghum Continue Growing

    Researchers discover how certain bacteria may safeguard plant growth during a drought, making way for strategies to improve crop productivity.

    Sierra Snowpack Could Drop Significantly By End of Century

    A future warmer world will almost certainly feature a decline in fresh water from the Sierra Nevada mountain snowpack. Now a new study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that analyzed the headwater regions of California's 10 major reservoirs, representing nearly half of the state's surface storage, found they could see on average a 79 percent drop in peak snowpack water volume by 2100.

    The Biermann Battery Effect: Spontaneous Generation of Magnetic Fields and Their Severing

    The mechanism responsible for creating intense magnetic fields in laser-driven plasmas also helps tear the fields apart.

    Compelling Evidence for Small Drops of Perfect Fluid

    Nuclear physicists analyzing data from the PHENIX detector at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) have published additional evidence that collisions of miniscule projectiles with gold nuclei create tiny specks of the perfect fluid that filled the early universe.


    • Filters

    • × Clear Filters

    DOE approves technical plan and cost estimate to upgrade Argonne facility; Project will create X-rays that illuminate the atomic scale, in 3D

    The U.S. Department of Energy has approved the technical scope, cost estimate and plan of work for an upgrade of the Advanced Photon Source, a major storage-ring X-ray source at Argonne.

    Costas Soukoulis elected to National Academy of Inventors

    Costas Soukoulis, Ames Laboratory senior scientist and Iowa State University Frances M. Craig Endowed Chair and Distinguished Professor, has been named as a 2018 National Academy of Inventors (NAI) Fellow.

    Biophysicist F. William Studier Elected Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

    F. William Studier, a Senior Biophysicist Emeritus at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and Adjunct Professor of Biochemistry at Stony Brook University, has been elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). He is among 148 renowned academic inventors being recognized by NAI for 2018.

    Blast to the future

    A grant from DOE's Technology Commercialization Fund will help researchers at Argonne and industry partners seek improvements to U.S. manufacturing by making discovery and design of new materials more efficient.

    Department of Energy to Provide $24 Million for Computer-Based Materials Design

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced plans to provide $24 million in new and renewal research awards to advance the development of sophisticated software for computer-based design of novel materials.

    Argonne scientists recognized for decades of pioneering leadership in research

    Argonne scientists Ali Erdemir and Jack Vaughey were named 2018 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

    Kurfess, Smith join ORNL to lead advanced manufacturing initiatives

    Two leaders in US manufacturing innovation, Thomas Kurfess and Scott Smith, are joining the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory to support its pioneering research in advanced manufacturing.

    Four Berkeley Lab Scientists Named AAAS Fellows

    Four Berkeley Lab scientists - Allen Goldstein, Sung-Hou Kim, Susannah Tringe, and Katherine Yelick - have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general scientific society.

    U.S. Department of Energy to Host Nationwide CyberForce Competition(tm) December 1

    Students from dozens of colleges/universities will participate in the U.S. Department of Energy's CyberForce Competition(tm) this weekend

    Seven ORNL researchers named 2019 INCITE award winners

    Seven researchers from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have been chosen by the Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment, also known as INCITE, program to lead scientific investigations that require the nation's most powerful computers. The ORNL-based projects span a broad range of the scientific spectrum and represent the potential of high-performance computing in ensuring America's scientific competitiveness and energy security.


    • Filters

    • × Clear Filters

    Ice Formed by Contact Freezing: Pressure Matters, Not Just Temperature

    Distortion of water droplet surface may increase the likelihood of the droplet freezing.

    Future Loss of Arctic Sea-Ice Cover Could Contribute to the Substantial Decrease in California's Rainfall

    A new modeling framework helps understand the consequences of future sea-ice loss in the Arctic.

    Drawn into a Whirlpool: A New Way to Stop Dangerous Fast Electrons in a Fusion Device

    A new phenomena forms vortices that trap particles, impeding electron avalanches that harm fusion reactors.

    During Droughts, Bacteria Help Sorghum Continue Growing

    Researchers discover how certain bacteria may safeguard plant growth during a drought, making way for strategies to improve crop productivity.

    The Biermann Battery Effect: Spontaneous Generation of Magnetic Fields and Their Severing

    The mechanism responsible for creating intense magnetic fields in laser-driven plasmas also helps tear the fields apart.

    Subtlety and the Selective Art of Separating Lanthanides

    Unexpected molecular interactions involving water clusters have a subtle, yet profound, effect on extractants picking their targets.

    Review Examines the Science and Needs of Nitrogen-Based Transformations

    Advances in biochemistry and catalysis could lead to faster, greener nitrogen-rich fertilizer.

    Quickly Capture Tiny Particles Reacting

    New method takes a snapshot every millisecond of groups of light-scattering particles, showing what happens during industrially relevant reactions.

    New Technology Consistently Identifies Proteins from a Dozen Cells

    A new platform melding microfluidics and robotics allows more in-depth bioanalysis with fewer cells than ever before.

    Optimal Foraging: How Soil Microbes Adapt to Nutrient Constraints

    How microbial communities adjust to nutrient-poor soils at the genomic and proteomic level gives scientists insights into land use.


    Spotlight

    Thursday October 11, 2018, 04:00 PM

    Research on Light-Matter Interaction Could Lead to Improved Electronic and Optoelectronic Devices

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Wednesday October 03, 2018, 07:05 PM

    Innovating Our Energy Future

    Oregon State University, College of Engineering

    Tuesday October 02, 2018, 03:05 PM

    Physics graduate student takes her thesis research to a Department of Energy national lab

    University of Alabama at Birmingham

    Friday September 21, 2018, 01:05 PM

    "Model" students enjoy Argonne campus life

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Thursday September 06, 2018, 01:05 PM

    Writing Code for a More Skilled and Diverse STEM Workforce

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Tuesday September 04, 2018, 11:30 AM

    New graduate student summer school launches at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    Friday August 31, 2018, 06:05 PM

    The Gridlock State

    California State University (CSU) Chancellor's Office

    Friday August 31, 2018, 02:05 PM

    Meet Jasmine Hatcher and Trishelle Copeland-Johnson

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Friday August 24, 2018, 11:05 AM

    Argonne hosts Modeling, Experimentation and Validation Summer School

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Wednesday August 22, 2018, 01:05 PM

    Students affected by Hurricane Maria bring their research to SLAC

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    Wednesday August 22, 2018, 10:05 AM

    Brookhaven Lab Pays Tribute to 2018 Summer Interns

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Monday August 20, 2018, 12:05 PM

    Changing How Buildings Are Made

    Washington University in St. Louis

    Thursday August 16, 2018, 12:05 PM

    CSUMB Selected to Host Architecture at Zero Competition in 2019

    California State University, Monterey Bay

    Friday July 20, 2018, 03:00 PM

    Department of Energy Invests $64 Million in Advanced Nuclear Technology

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Thursday July 19, 2018, 05:00 PM

    Professor Miao Yu Named the Priti and Mukesh Chatter '82 Career Development Professor

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Tuesday July 03, 2018, 11:05 AM

    2018 RHIC & AGS Annual Users' Meeting: 'Illuminating the QCD Landscape'

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Friday June 29, 2018, 06:05 PM

    Argonne welcomes The Martian author Andy Weir

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Monday June 18, 2018, 09:55 AM

    Creating STEM Knowledge and Innovations to Solve Global Issues Like Water, Food, and Energy

    Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA)

    Friday June 15, 2018, 10:00 AM

    Professor Emily Liu Receives $1.8 Million DoE Award for Solar Power Systems Research

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Thursday June 07, 2018, 03:05 PM

    Celebrating 40 years of empowerment in science

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Monday May 07, 2018, 10:30 AM

    Introducing Graduate Students Across the Globe to Photon Science

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Wednesday May 02, 2018, 04:05 PM

    Students from Massachusetts and Washington Win DOE's 28th National Science Bowl(r)

    Department of Energy, Office of Science

    Thursday April 12, 2018, 07:05 PM

    The Race for Young Scientific Minds

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Wednesday March 14, 2018, 02:05 PM

    Q&A: Al Ashley Reflects on His Efforts to Diversify SLAC and Beyond

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    Thursday February 15, 2018, 12:05 PM

    Insights on Innovation in Energy, Humanitarian Aid Highlight UVA Darden's Net Impact Week

    University of Virginia Darden School of Business

    Friday February 09, 2018, 11:05 AM

    Ivy League Graduate, Writer and Activist with Dyslexia Visits CSUCI to Reframe the Concept of Learning Disabilities

    California State University, Channel Islands

    Wednesday January 17, 2018, 12:05 PM

    Photographer Adam Nadel Selected as Fermilab's New Artist-in-Residence for 2018

    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab)

    Wednesday January 17, 2018, 12:05 PM

    Fermilab Computing Partners with Argonne, Local Schools for Hour of Code

    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab)

    Wednesday December 20, 2017, 01:05 PM

    Q&A: Sam Webb Teaches X-Ray Science from a Remote Classroom

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    Monday December 18, 2017, 01:05 PM

    The Future of Today's Electric Power Systems

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Monday December 18, 2017, 12:05 PM

    Supporting the Development of Offshore Wind Power Plants

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Tuesday October 03, 2017, 01:05 PM

    Stairway to Science

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Thursday September 28, 2017, 12:05 PM

    After-School Energy Rush

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Thursday September 28, 2017, 10:05 AM

    Bringing Diversity Into Computational Science Through Student Outreach

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Thursday September 21, 2017, 03:05 PM

    From Science to Finance: SLAC Summer Interns Forge New Paths in STEM

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    Thursday September 07, 2017, 02:05 PM

    Students Discuss 'Cosmic Opportunities' at 45th Annual SLAC Summer Institute

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    Thursday August 31, 2017, 05:05 PM

    Binghamton University Opens $70 Million Smart Energy Building

    Binghamton University, State University of New York

    Wednesday August 23, 2017, 05:05 PM

    Widening Horizons for High Schoolers with Code

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Saturday May 20, 2017, 12:05 PM

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Graduates Urged to Embrace Change at 211th Commencement

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Monday May 15, 2017, 01:05 PM

    ORNL, University of Tennessee Launch New Doctoral Program in Data Science

    Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    Friday April 07, 2017, 11:05 AM

    Champions in Science: Profile of Jonathan Kirzner

    Department of Energy, Office of Science

    Wednesday April 05, 2017, 12:05 PM

    High-Schooler Solves College-Level Security Puzzle From Argonne, Sparks Interest in Career

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Tuesday March 28, 2017, 12:05 PM

    Champions in Science: Profile of Jenica Jacobi

    Department of Energy, Office of Science

    Friday March 24, 2017, 10:40 AM

    Great Neck South High School Wins Regional Science Bowl at Brookhaven Lab

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Wednesday February 15, 2017, 04:05 PM

    Middle Schoolers Test Their Knowledge at Science Bowl Competition

    Argonne National Laboratory





    Showing results

    0-4 Of 2215