Robust, Scalable, and Cost-Effective Surface Carbonized Pulp Foam for Highly Efficient Solar Steam Generation

Yidong Zhang, Wangfang Deng, Meiyan Wu, Zhexuan Liu, Guang Yu, Qiu Cui, Chao Liu*, Pedram Fatehi*, Bin Li*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Recently, a solar-driven evaporator has been applied in seawater desalination, but the low stability, high cost, and complex fabrication limit its further application. Herein, we report a novel, low-cost, scalable, and easily fabricated pulp-natural rubber (PNR) foam with a unique porous structure, which was directly used as a solar-driven evaporator after facile surface carbonization. This surface carbonized PNR (CPNR) foam without interface adhesion or modification was composed of a top photothermal layer with light absorption ability and a bottom hydrophilic foam layer with a porous and interconnected network structure. Due to the strong light absorption ability (93.2%) of the carbonized top layer, together with the low thermal conductivity (0.1 W m K-1) and good water adsorption performance (9.9 g g-1) of the bottom layer, the evaporation rate and evaporation efficiency of the pulp foam evaporator under 1 sun of illumination attained 1.62 kg m-2 h-1 and 98.09%, respectively, which were much higher than those of most cellulose-based solar-driven evaporators. Furthermore, the CPNR foam evaporator with high cost-effectiveness presented high light-thermal conversion, heat localization, and good salt rejection properties due to the unique porous structure. Additionally, the CPNR foam evaporator exhibited potential applications in the treatments of simulated sewage, metal ion concentration, and seawater desalination. Its cost-effectiveness was clearly higher than that of most reported evaporators as well. Therefore, this novel, low-cost, and stable pulp foam evaporator demonstrated here can be a very promising solution for water desalination and purification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7414-7426
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • cellulose
  • natural rubber
  • porous materials
  • solar thermal conversion
  • surface carbonization


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