Optical-Concentrating Solar Distillation Based on Three-Dimensional Copper Foam Cubes Coated with CuS Nanoparticles and Agarose Gel

Wenyi Cai, Xiao Luo, Zhentao Lian, Guo Chen, Hao Chung Kuo, Hua Bao*, Chang Ching Tu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Solar distillation by interfacial evaporation is a promising method for relieving the freshwater crisis. However, the solar-to-water generation rate inside an enclosed system is usually lower than the solar-to-vapor evaporation rate in an open system due to the lower mass transfer rate. In this work, we demonstrate high rate solar distillation based on a three-dimensional copper foam (CF) cube, which offers five surfaces for absorbing direct and reflected sunlight to achieve optical concentration. The CF surface was first oxidized into black CuO and then dip-coated with a mixture of CuS nanoparticles (CuSNPs) and agarose gel (AG) for enhancing near-infrared (NIR) absorption and water transport. The open interconnected pores within the CF cube provide a large surface area for evaporation and steam escape. In an open space, the CuSNPs/AG-coated oxidized CF cube with the five surfaces illuminated by sunlight can achieve the solar-to-vapor evaporation rate equal to 5.83 kg m-2 h-1. When the same CF cube was placed in an enclosed distillation chamber with the five chamber surfaces illuminated by sunlight, the solar-to-water generation rate is equal to 4.14 kg m-2 h-1, which is 5.34 times higher than the case with only the top chamber surface illuminated. Lastly, when real seawater was used for distillation, although the solar-to-water generation rate was decreased by about 30%, the distillation efficiency was consistent after repeated cycles and no obvious salt accumulation was observed on the light absorbing surface. This work presents an efficient and reliable method of optical concentration for enhancing the solar distillation rate in an enclosed system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20120-20129
Number of pages10
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number16
StatePublished - 26 Apr 2023


  • agarose gel
  • copper foam
  • copper sulfide
  • optical concentration
  • solar distillation
  • three-dimensional light absorber and evaporator


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