A Passive High-Temperature High-Pressure Solar Steam Generator for Medical Sterilization

Elsevier, Joule, Volume 4, Issue 12, 2020, Pages 2733-2745, ISSN 2542-4351
Lin Zhao, Bikram Bhatia, Lenan Zhang, Elise Strobach, Arny Leroy, Manoj K. Yadav, Sungwoo Yang, Thomas A. Cooper, Lee A. Weinstein, Anish Modi, Shireesh B. Kedare, Gang Chen, Evelyn N. Wang

Saturated steam (>121°C and >205 kPa) is widely used in the medical sterilization process known as autoclaving. However, solar-driven steam generation at such high temperature and pressure requires expensive optical concentrators. We demonstrate a passive solar thermal device mostly built from low-cost off-the-shelf components capable of delivering saturated and pressurized steam to drive sterilization cycles even under hazy and partly cloudy weather. Enabled by an optimized ultra-transparent silica aerogel, the device utilizes an efficient thermal concentration strategy to locally increase the heat flux and temperature obviating the need for active optical concentrators. With almost 2× higher energy efficiency (47%) than those previously reported at 100°C, the device demonstrated successful sterilization in a field test performed in Mumbai, India. In addition to enabling passive sterilization, this work promises the development of solar thermal energy systems for saturated steam generation in energy conversion, storage, and transport applications.