The process of evaporation, which occurs all around us, has long been thought to be the result of thermal energy. However, recent research has uncovered a surprising phenomenon that challenges this understanding.
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered that under certain conditions, light can directly cause evaporation at the interface between water and air, and does so even more efficiently than heat.
This groundbreaking discovery could have major implications for a variety of natural phenomena and industrial processes, including water desalination.
MIT researchers were puzzled when they noticed that water in their experiments was evaporating at a much higher rate than expected.
The water contained in the hydrogel material evaporated at a rate exceeding the theoretical maximum possible based on the amount of heat it received. After conducting a series of experiments and simulations, experts came to the conclusion that light can cause evaporation at the water-air interface without the use of heat.
Traditionally, evaporation is attributed solely to thermal energy. However, new research suggests that light may play an important role in this process.
Experts have discovered that under certain conditions, light can evaporate more efficiently than heat. Although the experiments were carried out using a hydrogel material, the researchers believe that this phenomenon may occur in other conditions.
The discovery of light-induced evaporation could have far-reaching consequences. It can play a crucial role in the formation and evolution of fog and clouds, which is necessary for inclusion in climate models to improve their accuracy. Additionally, this phenomenon could revolutionize industrial processes such as solar-powered desalination.
According to Professor Gang Chen, one of the study’s participants, this discovery could eliminate the need to convert sunlight into heat in the process of desalination.
He explains: “If we can directly use light to evaporate water, it will be much more efficient.” This could lead to more sustainable and cost-effective desalination methods.
Dr. Yaodong Tu, a postdoc at MIT and one of the study’s authors, emphasizes the importance of this discovery: “This discovery challenges our current understanding of evaporation and opens up new possibilities for harnessing light energy in a variety of applications.”
Dr. David L. Chandler, a news fellow at MIT, highlights the potential impact on climate models: “Incorporating this light-induced evaporation phenomenon into climate models could greatly improve their accuracy in predicting cloud formation and other atmospheric processes.”
Evaporation is the natural process by which a liquid turns into a gas. It is a critical part of the Earth’s water cycle and plays a critical role in shaping weather and climate.
Until now, scientists believed that evaporation occurs solely due to thermal energy, when, under the influence of heat, molecules acquire enough energy to evaporate into the air.