Assam: IIT-G develops revolutionary nanofluid for solar-powered desalination
IIT Guwahati

Guwahati: A team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT Guwahati), led by Prof. Tamal Banerjee of the Department of Chemical Engineering, has successfully produced a novel heat transfer fluid based on nanofluids. This innovative technology has the potential to efficiently transfer heat generated using solar power to desalination systems, offering a practical solution to the global water scarcity crisis.

Prof. Tamal Banerjee of the Department of Chemical Engineering

With the world facing an ever-worsening water shortage, the demand for desalination, a process that extracts freshwater from saltwater, has reached a critical level. Traditional desalination methods rely on heat generated by burning fossil fuels, resulting in economic and environmental challenges. The researchers at IIT Guwahati have now harnessed Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), which uses sunlight to generate heat, as a promising solution to this problem.

The primary challenge with using CSP for desalination has been the transfer of generated heat from CSP systems to the desalination plants. Conventional heat transfer fluids like molten salts and synthetic oils have limitations, including high melting points and low heat transfer efficiencies. Additionally, India’s reliance on imported heat transfer fluids has led to increased capital costs. To address these issues, the IIT Guwahati researchers have explored the use of nanofluids, suspensions of nanoparticles in Deep Eutectic Solvent (DES), as a highly efficient alternative.

The researchers capitalised on the exceptional thermal conductivity and stability of graphene oxide dispersed in a DES, a safe and environmentally friendly solvent. Through the modification of graphene oxide with an amine functionality, they achieved enhanced dispersion stability, overcoming the tendency of nanoparticles to clump together.

Nipu Kumar Das, one of the key researchers, explained, “We developed a nanoparticle-dispersed deep eutectic solvent (NDDES) through precise mixing, demonstrating outstanding thermal conductivity and stability. This breakthrough has immense potential for sustainable energy applications, particularly in solar energy and desalination.”

The study has not only demonstrated the superior thermal properties of nanofluids in heat transfer applications but has also proposed an innovative desalination system utilising nanofluids and a heat exchanger. This system aims to achieve a Gain Output Ratio (GOR) of around 10, indicating the potential for generating a larger quantity of freshwater.

The research findings have been published in the journal ‘Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering’ by the American Chemical Society and were funded by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. The paper, co-authored by Nipu Kumar Das, Somtirtha Santra, Papu Kumar Naik, Maureen Shama Vasa, Rishi Raj, Suryasarathi Bose, and Prof. Tamal Banerjee, can be accessed at this link.

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This groundbreaking research holds the promise of addressing water scarcity and transforming the desalination process into an environmentally friendly and sustainable solution. It underscores the innovative and environmentally responsible approach of IIT Guwahati in solving critical global challenges.

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