The idea of using energy from the sun to evaporate and purify water is ancient. The Greek philosopher Aristotle reportedly described such a process more than 2,000 years ago. Now, researchers are bringing this technology into the modern age, using it to sanitize water at what they report to be record-breaking rates. By draping black, carbon-dipped paper in a triangular shape and using it to both absorb and vaporize water, they have developed a method for using sunlight to generate clean water with near-perfect efficiency. The paper's bottom edges soak up water, while the carbon coating absorbs solar energy and transforms it into heat for evaporation. Scientists believe the low-cost technology could provide drinking water in regions where resources are scarce or where natural disasters have struck.
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