Graphene Solar Heating Film for Efficient Solar Thermal Energy Harvesting

March 16, 2020 by Paul Shepard

Researchers at Swinburne’s Centre for Translational Atomaterials have developed a highly efficient solar absorbing film that absorbs sunlight with minimal heat loss and rapidly heats up to 83°C in an open environment.

The graphene metamaterial film has great potential for use in solar thermal energy harvesting and conversion, thermophotovoltaics (directly converting heat to electricity), solar seawater desalination, wastewater treatment, light emitters and photodetectors.

The researchers have developed a prototype to demonstrate the photo-thermal performance and thermal stability of the film. They have also proposed a scalable and low-cost manufacturing strategy to produce this graphene metamaterial film for practical applications.

“In our previous work, we demonstrated a 90nm graphene metamaterial heat-absorbing film,” says Professor Baohua Jia, founding Director of the Centre for Translational Atomaterials.

“In this new work, we reduced the film thickness to 30nm and improved the performance by minimizing heat loss. This work forms an exciting pillar in our atomaterial research.”

Concept of structured graphene metamaterial. Bottom: 30 nanometer graphene metamaterial film absorbs almost all the sunlight and efficiently heats up to 83°C.

Lead author Dr Keng-Te Lin says: “Our cost-effective and scalable structured graphene metamaterial selective absorber is promising for energy harvesting and conversion applications. Using our film an impressive solar to vapour efficiency of 96.2 per cent can be achieved, which is very competitive for clean water generation using renewable energy source.”

Co-author Dr Han Lin adds: “In addition to the long lifetime of the proposed graphene metamaterial, the solar-thermal performance is very stable under working conditions, making it attractive for industrial use. The 30nm thickness significantly reduced the amount of the graphene materials, thus saving the costs, making it accessible for real life applications.”

The research is published in Nature Communications and has been funded by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project and the ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centre in Surface Engineering for Advanced Materials (SEAM).