In time for your Thanksgiving dinner, just what the world was waiting for: the first fundamental breakthrough in distillation for 1200 years. (Via Clean Technica.)
This looks low-tech because you can´t see the important bit. (The Fresnel lens concentrator can presumably be replaced by a simple arrangement of parabolic reflectors.)
A team at
Sake Rice University under Professor Naomi Halas, assisted by a rainbow team of graduate students including, I am informed, B. Samedi, S.A. Tan and B. L. Zebub (*), have developed a solar still using gold-coated nanoparticles. (Press release, research paper.) Moderately concentrated sunlight heats up the particles in seconds to 150 deg C. They quickly surround themselves with vapour bubbles that rise to the surface and pop, releasing the particle to sink and heat up again. The paper doesn´t say how the valuable gold particles are recovered for the next batch. Everything else is cheap glassware.
The technology can also be used for making steam to generate power, purify waste, etc, but on this blog, alcohol´s our thing. The setup can distil alcohol to 99%: at that Siberian nirvana, all the flavours are presumably lost. But perhaps it can be tuned to keep some of the desirable compounds, as in whisky ¨tails¨. You could of course also waste perfectly drinkable alcohol by putting it in your car.
A boom in backyard ¨sunshine¨ may be unlikely. Booze is cheap enough that few will be tempted on economic grounds. I do predict a niche market in solar-powered hooch, marketed to the kind of people who will pay $20,000 for speaker cable. Purified with gold! No peat bogs were harmed making this exclusive ¨Spirit of the Sun¨!
But if things continue on the current downhill trajectory, a cheap way of staying drunk all the time may be a handy ¨adaptation¨.
A 15th-century imagined European portrait of Abu Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan (Geber), 721-815? CE, Persian founder of chemistry and alchemy, and pioneer of the alembic.
(*) The actual co-authors of the paper are listed as Oara Neumann, Alex Urban, Jared Day, Surbhi Lal, Peter Nordlander, and Naomi J. Halas. Ms. Lal and Mr. Urban are postdocs, Mr. Day and the lead author Ms. Neumann are graduate students. Peter Nordlander is another professor of physics at Rice, and Ms. Halas´ husband. Professor Halas put herself last – that´s what I call leadership. Congratulations all round.