Last year, scientists developed a new technology that would use the power of the sun, aka solar energy, to heat up a mixture of water and nanoparticles to create steam without boiling the water. Now, these scientists have put this new technology to use: in medical autoclave machines to sterilize medical instruments.
Using this technology for medical autoclaves was recently presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society. The system works like this: water is put into a container with metallic nanoparticles. Solar energy is directed into the container and the nanoparticles heat up. Those tiny particles form steam. The steam rises to the top of the water, while the nanoparticles sink back down and continue to work to create more steam. In tests, prototype machines produced steam that was hot enough for proper sterilization within five minutes.
Why is this so important? We tend to forget that there are still places in the world that do not have access to something as simple as electricity. Modern autoclave machines need the grid, but in many third world countries, the grid doesn't exist. This new system allows medical equipment to be sterilized for those who need it most. Traditional methods require heating up all the water in a container until it boils and then waiting for the steam to rise from that. The beauty of this new system is that it is much quicker and more efficient.
This new solar steam technology does not apply solely to medical sterilization, though. It could also be used for disinfecting waste, purifying water and even generating electricity. For people who live in countries that don't have those simple basics that most of us take for granted, this technology could change lives for the better.