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Concept: Evaporation


About 50% of the solar energy absorbed at the Earth’s surface drives evaporation, fueling the water cycle that affects various renewable energy resources, such as wind and hydropower. Recent advances demonstrate our nascent ability to convert evaporation energy into work, yet there is little understanding about the potential of this resource. Here we study the energy available from natural evaporation to predict the potential of this ubiquitous resource. We find that natural evaporation from open water surfaces could provide power densities comparable to current wind and solar technologies while cutting evaporative water losses by nearly half. We estimate up to 325 GW of power is potentially available in the United States. Strikingly, water’s large heat capacity is sufficient to control power output by storing excess energy when demand is low, thus reducing intermittency and improving reliability. Our findings motivate the improvement of materials and devices that convert energy from evaporation.The evaporation of water represents an alternative source of renewable energy. Building on previous models of evaporation, Cavusoglu et al. show that the power available from this natural resource is comparable to wind and solar power, yet it does not suffer as much from varying weather conditions.

Concepts: Energy, Water, Earth, Renewable energy, Solar energy, Wind power, Evaporation, Hydroelectricity


The salient feature of liquid crystal elastomers and networks is strong coupling between orientational order and mechanical strain. Orientational order can be changed by a wide variety of stimuli, including the presence of moisture. Changes in the orientation of constituents give rise to stresses and strains, which result in changes in sample shape. We have utilized this effect to build soft cellulose-based motor driven by humidity. The motor consists of a circular loop of cellulose film, which passes over two wheels. When humid air is present near one of the wheels on one side of the film, with drier air elsewhere, rotation of the wheels results. As the wheels rotate, the humid film dries. The motor runs so long as the difference in humidity is maintained. Our cellulose liquid crystal motor thus extracts mechanical work from a difference in humidity.

Concepts: Crystal, Soft matter, Orientation, Humidity, Liquid crystal, Rigid body, Evaporation, Building insulation


The regeneration of structural biopolymers into micelles or nanoparticles suspended in water has enabled the design of new materials with unique and compelling properties that can serve at the interface between the biotic and the abiotic worlds. In this study, we leveraged silk fibroin quintessential properties (i.e. polymorphism, conformability and hydrophobicity) to design a water-based protein suspension that self-assembles on the surface of food upon dip coating. The water-based post-processing control of the protein polymorphism enables the modulation of the diffusion of gases through the silk fibroin thin membranes (e.g. O2 and CO2 diffusion, water vapour permeability), which is a key parameter to manage food freshness. In particular, an increased beta-sheet content corresponds to a reduction in oxygen diffusion through silk fibroin thin films. By using the dip coating of strawberries and bananas as proof of principle, we have shown that the formation of micrometre-thin silk fibroin membranes around the fruits helps the management of postharvest physiology of the fruits. Thus, silk fibroin coatings enhance fruits' shelf life at room conditions by reducing cell respiration rate and water evaporation. The water-based processing and edible nature of silk fibroin makes this approach a promising alternative for food preservation with a naturally derived material.

Concepts: Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Water, Cellular respiration, Yeast, Food, Evaporation, Shelf life


The coffee-ring effect, ubiquitously present in the drying process of aqueous droplets, impedes the performance of a myriad of applications involving precipitation of particle suspensions in evaporating liquids on solid surfaces, such as liquid biopsy combinational analysis, microarray fabrication, and ink-jet printing, to name a few. We invented the methodology of laser-induced differential evaporation to remove the coffee-ring effect. Without any additives to the liquid or any morphology modifications of the solid surface the liquid rests on, we have eliminated the coffee-ring effect by engineering the liquid evaporation profile with a CO2laser irradiating the apex of the droplets. The method of laser-induced differential evaporation transitions particle deposition patterns from coffee-ring patterns to central-peak patterns, bringing all particles (e.g. fluorescent double strand DNAs) in the droplet to a designated area of 100 μm diameter without leaving any stains outside. The technique also moves the drying process from the constant contact radius (CCR) mode to the constant contact angle (CCA) mode. Physical mechanisms of this method were experimentally studied by internal flow tracking and surface evaporation flux mapping, and theoretically investigated by development of an analytical model.

Concepts: Water, Liquid, Surface tension, Drop, Drying, Surface, Evaporation, Liquids


The deposition of particles on a surface by an evaporating sessile droplet is important for phenomena as diverse as printing, thin-film deposition, and self-assembly. The shape of the final deposit depends on the flows within the droplet during evaporation. These flows are typically determined at the onset of the process by the intrinsic physical, chemical, and geometrical properties of the droplet and its environment. Here, we demonstrate deterministic emergence and real-time control of Marangoni flows within the evaporating droplet by an external point source of vapor. By varying the source location, we can modulate these flows in space and time to pattern colloids on surfaces in a controllable manner.

Concepts: Water, General relativity, Systems theory, Liquid, Control theory, Differential geometry, Vapor, Evaporation


Altered atmospheric circulation, reductions in Arctic sea ice, ocean warming, and changes in evaporation and transpiration are driving changes in the global hydrologic cycle. Precipitation isotopic (δ(18)O and δ(2)H) measurements can help provide a mechanistic understanding of hydrologic change at global and regional scales. To study the changing water cycle in the northeastern US, we examined the longest (1968-2010) record of precipitation isotope values, collected at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire, US (43(o)56'N, 71(o)45'W). We found a significant reduction in δ(18)O and δ(2)H values over the 43-year record, coupled with a significant increase in d-excess values. This gradual reduction in δ(18)O and δ(2)H values unexpectedly occurred during a period of regional warming. We provide evidence that these changes are governed by the interactions among the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, loss of Arctic sea ice, the fluctuating jet stream, and regular incursions of polar air into the northeastern US.

Concepts: Water, Earth, Climate, Hydrology, Water cycle, Ocean, Arctic Ocean, Evaporation


On Mars, locally warm surface temperatures (~293 K) occur, leading to the possibility of (transient) liquid water on the surface. However, water exposed to the martian atmosphere will boil, and the sediment transport capacity of such unstable water is not well understood. Here, we present laboratory studies of a newly recognized transport mechanism: “levitation” of saturated sediment bodies on a cushion of vapor released by boiling. Sediment transport where this mechanism is active is about nine times greater than without this effect, reducing the amount of water required to transport comparable sediment volumes by nearly an order of magnitude. Our calculations show that the effect of levitation could persist up to ~48 times longer under reduced martian gravity. Sediment levitation must therefore be considered when evaluating the formation of recent and present-day martian mass wasting features, as much less water may be required to form such features than previously thought.

Concepts: Water, Mars, Liquid, Gas, Evaporation, Sediment transport, Boiling, Atmosphere of Mars


Quantifying the responses of the coupled carbon and water cycles to current global warming and rising atmospheric CO2 concentration is crucial for predicting and adapting to climate changes. Here we show that terrestrial carbon uptake (i.e. gross primary production) increased significantly from 1982 to 2011 using a combination of ground-based and remotely sensed land and atmospheric observations. Importantly, we find that the terrestrial carbon uptake increase is not accompanied by a proportional increase in water use (i.e. evapotranspiration) but is largely (about 90%) driven by increased carbon uptake per unit of water use, i.e. water use efficiency. The increased water use efficiency is positively related to rising CO2 concentration and increased canopy leaf area index, and negatively influenced by increased vapour pressure deficits. Our findings suggest that rising atmospheric CO2 concentration has caused a shift in terrestrial water economics of carbon uptake.The response of the coupled carbon and water cycles to anthropogenic climate change is unclear. Here, the authors show that terrestrial carbon uptake increased significantly from 1982 to 2011 and that this increase is largely driven by increased water-use efficiency, rather than an increase in water use.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Water, Earth, Precipitation, Water cycle, Climate change, Evaporation, Global warming


Terrestrial animals often use evaporative cooling to lower body temperature. Evaporation can occur from humid body surfaces or from fluids interfaced to the environment through a number of different mechanisms, such as sweating or panting. In Diptera, some flies move tidally a droplet of fluid out and then back in the buccopharyngeal cavity for a repeated number of cycles before eventually ingesting it. This is referred to as the bubbling behaviour. The droplet fluid consists of a mix of liquids from the ingested food, enzymes from the salivary glands, and antimicrobials, associated to the crop organ system, with evidence pointing to a role in liquid meal dehydration. Herein, we demonstrate that the bubbling behaviour also serves as an effective thermoregulatory mechanism to lower body temperature by means of evaporative cooling. In the blowfly, Chrysomya megacephala, infrared imaging revealed that as the droplet is extruded, evaporation lowers the fluid´s temperature, which, upon its re-ingestion, lowers the blowfly’s body temperature. This effect is most prominent at the cephalic region, less in the thorax, and then in the abdomen. Bubbling frequency increases with ambient temperature, while its cooling efficiency decreases at high air humidities. Heat transfer calculations show that droplet cooling depends on a special heat-exchange dynamic, which result in the exponential activation of the cooling effect.

Concepts: Thermoregulation, Temperature, Heat, Viscosity, Liquid, Heat transfer, Evaporation, Chrysomya megacephala


The inability of membranes to handle a wide spectrum of pollutants is an important unsolved problem for water treatment. Here we demonstrate water desalination via a membrane distillation process using a graphene membrane where water permeation is enabled by nanochannels of multilayer, mismatched, partially overlapping graphene grains. Graphene films derived from renewable oil exhibit significantly superior retention of water vapour flux and salt rejection rates, and a superior antifouling capability under a mixture of saline water containing contaminants such as oils and surfactants, compared to commercial distillation membranes. Moreover, real-world applicability of our membrane is demonstrated by processing sea water from Sydney Harbour over 72 h with macroscale membrane size of 4 cm2, processing ~0.5 L per day. Numerical simulations show that the channels between the mismatched grains serve as an effective water permeation route. Our research will pave the way for large-scale graphene-based antifouling membranes for diverse water treatment applications.

Concepts: Oxygen, Water, Petroleum, Pollution, Seawater, Distillation, Evaporation, Drinking water