Nanotechnology quintuples heating capacity of solar water heaters

Research conducted by scientists at the University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) has enabled a new solar heating system to be developed using nanotechnology which heats water to five times the temperature of a conventional system. Reportedly, the project has emerged from one of the enterprises of the URFJ’s business incubator.

Luiz Carlos de Lima and Marta de Moraes Bueno, both doctors of metallurgical and materials engineering, began their research at the university’s Thin Films Laboratory in 2004. The start of their research gave rise to the founding of Nano Select, the first company in the country to develop selective surfaces for solar collectors using nanotechnology, which have a high capacity to absorb heat.

According to Lima, as well as enabling solar collectors to heat water to five times the temperature reached using ordinary solar heaters, nanotechnology has permitted the collector surface area to retain up to 98% of heat from solar radiation.

In specific terms, water can reach 300ºC. "With that level of heating, it is possible, for example, to convert water into steam, allowing you to use turbines to generate electricity more efficiently," said the researcher.

The surfaces created by Nano Select have been developed from aluminium films coated with several thin layers of metal oxides and can be used in solar collectors to produce heat and electricity using photovoltaic cells.

The company has won the Technological Innovation prize awarded by the FINEP, the Brazilian Innovation Agency that funds scientific and technological studies. It has also obtained funding for micro and small innovation companies. According to Lima, thanks to these resources, the new technology could be launched onto the market at an industrial scale during the first six months of 2011.

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University of Rio de Janeiro


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