As it is with most things, sometimes very small actions can make a huge impact in the quest for a more sustainable world. The company DropWise has developed a new type of coating for use in power plants, which could reduce carbon emissions considerably. Adam Paxson, one of the people behind the project, was also part of the team that developed LiquidGlide, which are the super slippery surfaces in ketchup bottles and elsewhere that reduces waste considerably.
Similarly, DropWise has now developed a slippery coating, which can be applied to all kinds of power plants that feature steam-driven turbines, namely coal, natural gas, geothermal, solar thermal, biomass and nuclear power plants. In power plants such as these, steam is passed through a turbine and then captured in a water condenser where it is cooled down and turned back into liquid form. The suction that is created when the steam meets the coolant works to pull the steam through the turbine, turns the blades and generates electricity.
The coating developed by DropWise would be applied to the surface of the condenser to make it more slippery and thereby allow the drops of water to pass through it more easily. With the current technology, a lot of these drops build up on the surface of the condenser, going to waste, so using the new coating would make the turbines a lot more efficient.
DropWise’s coating could easily be added to existing turbines, since the process involves passing two gasses into the condenser and then simply adding heat, which makes these gases react, causing a thin coating to be attached to the walls. This coating can be applied with nanometer accuracy, according to DropWise, by simply controlling the temperature and pressure during the application.
DropWise also claims that adding this coating to a single power plant could lead to a reduction in carbon emissions equal to removing a few thousand cars from traffic. And if the coating were used across the world, it would cut the same amount of carbon emissions as all current solar and wind power installations combined.
This coating would also save massive amounts of water, given that power plants are huge consumers of water. This is due to the fact that by making the condenser more efficient, the same amount of electricity can be generated using less water for cooling.
It’s nice to work towards a world powered only by renewable energy sources, but right now, almost all of our energy still comes from thermal power plants and finding ways to make these more environmentally friendly should be a top priority.