rexresearch.com



Naomi HALAS, et al.

Nanoparticle Solar Steam








1. David Brown : Making steam without boiling water, thanks to nanoparticles

2. Jade Boyd : Off-grid sterilization with Rice U.’s ‘solar steam’

3. Jade Boyd : Rice unveils super-efficient solar-energy technology

4. Oara Neumann, et al. : Solar Vapor Generation Enabled by Nanoparticles

5. YouTube : Researchers create solar steam using nanoparticles at Rice University

6. Zheyu Fang, et al. : Evolution of Light-Induced Vapor Generation at a Liquid-Immersed Metallic Nanoparticle.
 
7. YouTube : Solar-Powered Steam Generation -- Solar steam used to clean human waste in the developing world

8. Oara Neumann, et al, : Compact solar autoclave based on steam generation using broadband light-harvesting nanoparticles

9. Patents



http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/making-steam-without-boiling-water-thanks-to-nanoparticles/2012/11/19/3d98c4d6-3264-11e2-9cfa-e41bac906cc9_story.html

Making steam without boiling water, thanks to nanoparticles

By

David Brown

It is possible to create steam within seconds by focusing sunlight on nanoparticles mixed into water, according to new research.

That observation, reported Monday by scientists at Rice University in Texas, suggests myriad applications in places that lack electricity or burnable fuels. A sun-powered boiler could desalinate sea water, distill alcohol, sterilize medical equipment and perform other useful tasks.

"We can build a portable, compact steam generator that depends only on sunlight for input. It is something that could really be good in remote or resource-limited locations," said Naomi J. Halas, an engineer and physicist at Rice who ran the experiment.

Whether the rig she and her colleagues describe would work on an industrial scale is unknown. If it does, it could mark an advance for solar-powered energy more generally.

"We will see how far it can ultimately go. There are certainly places and situations where it would be valuable to generate steam," said Paul S. Weiss, editor of the American Chemical Society's journal ACS Nano, which published the paper online in advance of the journalís December print publication.

The experiment is more evidence that nanoscale devices -- in this case, beads one-tenth the diameter of a human hair -- behave in ways different from bigger objects.

In the apparatus designed by the Rice team, steam forms in a vessel of water long before the water becomes warm to the touch. It is, in effect, possible to turn a container of water into steam before it gets hot enough to boil.

"There is a disconnect between what happens when we heat a pot of water and what happens when we put nanoparticles in that water," said Weiss, who is a chemist and director of the California Nanosystems Institute at UCLA.

"This is a novel proposed application of nanoparticles," said A. Paul Alivisatos, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a nanotechnology expert. ìI think it is very interesting and will stimulate a lot of others to think about the heating of water with sunlight."

In the Rice experiment, the researchers stirred a small amount of nanoparticles into water and put the mixture into a glass vessel. They then focused sunlight on the mixture with a lens.

The nanoparticles -- either carbon or gold-coated silicon dioxide beads -- have a diameter shorter than the wavelength of visible light. That allows them to absorb most of a wave of light's energy. If they had been larger, the particles would have scattered much of the light.

In the focused light, a nanoparticle rapidly becomes hot enough to vaporize the layer of water around it. It then becomes enveloped in a bubble of steam. That, in turn, insulates it from the mass of water that, an instant before the steam formed, was bathing and cooling it.

Insulated in that fashion, the particle heats up further and forms more steam. It eventually becomes buoyant enough to rise. As it floats toward the surface, it hits and merges with other bubbles.

At the surface, the nanoparticles-in-bubbles release their steam into the air. They then sink back toward the bottom of the vessel. When they encounter the focused light, the process begins again. All of this occurs within seconds.

In all, about 80 percent of the light energy a nanoparticle absorbs goes into making steam, and only 20 percent is "lost" in heating the water. This is far different from creating steam in a tea kettle. There, all the water must reach boiling temperature before an appreciable number of water molecules fly into the air as steam.

The phenomenon is such that it is possible to put the vessel containing the water-and-nanoparticle soup into an ice bath, focus light on it and make steam.

"It shows you could make steam in an arctic environment," Halas said. "There might be some interesting applications there."

The apparatus can also separate mixtures of water and other substances into their components -- the process known as distillation -- more completely than is usually possible. For example, with normal distillation of a water-and-alcohol mixture, it isn't possible to get more than 95 percent pure alcohol. Using nanoparticles to create the steam, 99 percent alcohol can be collected.

Halas said the nanoparticles are not expensive to make and, because they act essentially as catalysts, are not used up. A nanoparticle steam generator could be used over and over. And, as James Watt and other 18th-century inventors showed, if you can generate steam easily, you can create an industrial revolution.

The research is being funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in the hope it might prove useful to developing countries. Halas and her team recently spent three days in Seattle demonstrating the apparatus.

"Luckily," she said, "it was sunny."



The solar steam device developed at Rice University has an overall energy efficiency of 24 percent, far surpassing that of photovoltaic solar panels.
It may first be used in sanitation and water-purification applications in the developing world. Photo by Jeff Fitlow




... But how to deal with residual solids fouling the system ? Hunh ? Eh ? Riddle me that ...



http://news.rice.edu/2013/07/22/off-grid-sterilization-with-rice-u-s-solar-steam-2/
July 22, 2013

Off-grid sterilization with Rice U.’s ‘solar steam’

by


Jade Boyd

Solar-powered sterilization technology supported by Gates Foundation

Rice University nanotechnology researchers have unveiled a solar-powered sterilization system that could be a boon for more than 2.5 billion people who lack adequate sanitation. The “solar steam” sterilization system uses nanomaterials to convert as much as 80 percent of the energy in sunlight into germ-killing heat.

The technology is described online in a July 8 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition. In the paper, researchers from Rice’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP) show two ways that solar steam can be used for sterilization — one setup to clean medical instruments and another to sanitize human waste.

“Sanitation and sterilization are enormous obstacles without reliable electricity,” said Rice photonics pioneer Naomi Halas, the director of LANP and lead researcher on the project, with senior co-author and Rice professor Peter Nordlander. “Solar steam’s efficiency at converting sunlight directly into steam opens up new possibilities for off-grid sterilization that simply aren’t available today.”

In a previous study last year, Halas and colleagues showed that “solar steam” was so effective at direct conversion of solar energy into heat that it could even produce steam from ice water.

“It makes steam directly from sunlight,” she said. “That means the steam forms immediately, even before the water boils.”

Halas, Rice’s Stanley C. Moore Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, professor of physics, professor of chemistry and professor of biomedical engineering, is one of the world’s most-cited chemists. Her lab specializes in creating and studying light-activated particles. One of her creations, gold nanoshells, is the subject of several clinical trials for cancer treatment.

Oara Neumann and Naomi Halas -- Rice University graduate student Oara Neumann, left, and scientist Naomi Halas are co-authors of a new study about a highly efficient method of turning sunlight into heat. They expect their technology to have an initial impact as an ultra-small-scale system to treat human waste in developing nations without sewer systems or electricity. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

Solar steam’s efficiency comes from light-harvesting nanoparticles that were created at LANP by Rice graduate student Oara Neumann, the lead author on the PNAS study. Neumann created a version of nanoshells that converts a broad spectrum of sunlight — including both visible and invisible bandwidths — directly into heat. When submerged in water and exposed to sunlight, the particles heat up so quickly they instantly vaporize water and create steam. The technology has an overall energy efficiency of 24 percent. Photovoltaic solar panels, by comparison, typically have an overall energy efficiency of around 15 percent.

When used in the autoclaves in the tests, the heat and pressure created by the steam were sufficient to kill not just living microbes but also spores and viruses. The solar steam autoclave was designed by Rice undergraduates at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen and refined by Neumann and colleagues at LANP. In the PNAS study, standard tests for sterilization showed the solar steam autoclave could kill even the most heat-resistant microbes.

“The process is very efficient,” Neumann said. “For the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation program that is sponsoring us, we needed to create a system that could handle the waste of a family of four with just two treatments per week, and the autoclave setup we reported in this paper can do that.”

Halas said her team hopes to work with waste-treatment pioneer Sanivation to conduct the first field tests of the solar steam waste sterilizer at three sites in Kenya.

“Sanitation technology isn’t glamorous, but it’s a matter of life and death for 2.5 billion people,” Halas said. “For this to really work, you need a technology that can be completely off-grid, that’s not that large, that functions relatively quickly, is easy to handle and doesn’t have dangerous components. Our Solar Steam system has all of that, and it’s the only technology we’ve seen that can completely sterilize waste. I can’t wait to see how it performs in the field.”

Paper co-authors include Curtis Feronti, Albert Neumann, Anjie Dong, Kevin Schell, Benjamin Lu, Eric Kim, Mary Quinn, Shea Thompson, Nathaniel Grady, Maria Oden and Nordlander, all of Rice. The research was supported by a Grand Challenges grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and by the Welch Foundation.



Rice University graduate student Oara Neumann, left, and scientist Naomi Halas are co-authors of a new study about a highly efficient method of turning sunlight into heat. They expect their technology to have an initial impact as an ultra-small-scale system to treat human waste in developing nations without sewer systems or electricity. Photo by Jeff Fitlow -



http://news.rice.edu/2012/11/19/rice-unveils-super-efficient-solar-energy-technology-2/
November 19, 2012

Rice unveils super-efficient solar-energy technology

by

Jade Boyd

‘Solar steam’ so effective it can make steam from icy cold water

Rice University scientists have unveiled a revolutionary new technology that uses nanoparticles to convert solar energy directly into steam. The new “solar steam” method from Rice’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP) is so effective it can even produce steam from icy cold water.

Details of the solar steam method were published online today in ACS Nano. The technology has an overall energy efficiency of 24 percent. Photovoltaic solar panels, by comparison, typically have an overall energy efficiency around 15 percent. However, the inventors of solar steam said they expect the first uses of the new technology will not be for electricity generation but rather for sanitation and water purification in developing countries.

Rice University graduate student Oara Neumann, left, and scientist Naomi Halas are co-authors of new research on a highly efficient method of turning sunlight into heat. They expect their technology to have an initial impact as an ultra-small-scale system to treat human waste in developing nations without sewer systems or electricity. Photo by Jeff Fitlow

“This is about a lot more than electricity,” said LANP Director Naomi Halas, the lead scientist on the project. “With this technology, we are beginning to think about solar thermal power in a completely different way.”

The efficiency of solar steam is due to the light-capturing nanoparticles that convert sunlight into heat. When submerged in water and exposed to sunlight, the particles heat up so quickly they instantly vaporize water and create steam. Halas said the solar steam’s overall energy efficiency can probably be increased as the technology is refined.

“We’re going from heating water on the macro scale to heating it at the nanoscale,” Halas said. “Our particles are very small — even smaller than a wavelength of light — which means they have an extremely small surface area to dissipate heat. This intense heating allows us to generate steam locally, right at the surface of the particle, and the idea of generating steam locally is really counterintuitive.”

To show just how counterintuitive, Rice graduate student Oara Neumann videotaped a solar steam demonstration in which a test tube of water containing light-activated nanoparticles was submerged into a bath of ice water. Using a lens to concentrate sunlight onto the near-freezing mixture in the tube, Neumann showed she could create steam from nearly frozen water.

Steam is one of the world’s most-used industrial fluids. About 90 percent of electricity is produced from steam, and steam is also used to sterilize medical waste and surgical instruments, to prepare food and to purify water.

Most industrial steam is produced in large boilers, and Halas said solar steam’s efficiency could allow steam to become economical on a much smaller scale.

People in developing countries will be among the first to see the benefits of solar steam. Rice engineering undergraduates have already created a solar steam-powered autoclave that’s capable of sterilizing medical and dental instruments at clinics that lack electricity. Halas also won a Grand Challenges grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to create an ultra-small-scale system for treating human waste in areas without sewer systems or electricity.

“Solar steam is remarkable because of its efficiency,” said Neumann, the lead co-author on the paper. “It does not require acres of mirrors or solar panels. In fact, the footprint can be very small. For example, the light window in our demonstration autoclave was just a few square centimeters.”

Another potential use could be in powering hybrid air-conditioning and heating systems that run off of sunlight during the day and electricity at night. Halas, Neumann and colleagues have also conducted distillation experiments and found that solar steam is about two-and-a-half times more efficient than existing distillation columns.

Halas, the Stanley C. Moore Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, professor of physics, professor of chemistry and professor of biomedical engineering, is one of the world’s most-cited chemists. Her lab specializes in creating and studying light-activated particles. One of her creations, gold nanoshells, is the subject of several clinical trials for cancer treatment.

For the cancer treatment technology and many other applications, Halas’ team chooses particles that interact with just a few wavelengths of light. For the solar steam project, Halas and Neumann set out to design a particle that would interact with the widest possible spectrum of sunlight energy. Their new nanoparticles are activated by both visible sunlight and shorter wavelengths that humans cannot see.

“We’re not changing any of the laws of thermodynamics,” Halas said. “We’re just boiling water in a radically different way.”

Paper co-authors include Jared Day, graduate student; Alexander Urban, postdoctoral researcher; Surbhi Lal, research scientist and LANP executive director; and Peter Nordlander, professor of physics and astronomy and of electrical and computer engineering. The research was supported by the Welch Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.



ACS Nano, 2013, 7 (1), pp 42–49
DOI: 10.1021/nn304948h
November 19, 2012

Solar Vapor Generation Enabled by Nanoparticles

Oara Neumann, Alexander S. Urban, Jared Day, Surbhi Lal, Peter Nordlander, and Naomi J. Halas

Solar illumination of broadly absorbing metal or carbon nanoparticles dispersed in a liquid produces vapor without the requirement of heating the fluid volume. When particles are dispersed in water at ambient temperature, energy is directed primarily to vaporization of water into steam, with a much smaller fraction resulting in heating of the fluid. Sunlight-illuminated particles can also drive H2O–ethanol distillation, yielding fractions significantly richer in ethanol content than simple thermal distillation. These phenomena can also enable important compact solar applications such as sterilization of waste and surgical instruments in resource-poor locations.





https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ved0K5CtmsU
Nov 19, 2012

Researchers create solar steam using nanoparticles at Rice University

Rice University scientists have unveiled a revolutionary new technology that uses nanoparticles to convert solar energy directly into steam. The new "solar steam" method from Rice's Laboratory for Nanophotonics is so effective it can even produce steam from icy cold water. Details of the solar steam method were published online today in ACS Nano. The technology's inventors said they expect it will first be used in sanitation and water-purification applications in the developing world.



http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nl4003238
Nano Lett. 2013, 13, 1736-1742

Evolution of Light-Induced Vapor Generation at a Liquid-Immersed Metallic Nanoparticle.
 
Zheyu Fang, Yu-rong Zhen, Oara Neumann, Albert Polman, F. Javier Garcia de Abajo, Peter Nordlander, and Naomi J. Halas.

When an Au nanoparticle in a liquid medium is illuminated with resonant light of sufficient intensity, a nanometer scale envelope of vapor—a “nanobubble”—surrounding the particle, is formed. This is the nanoscale onset of the well-known process of liquid boiling, occurring at a single nanoparticle nucleation site, resulting from the photothermal response of the nanoparticle. Here we examine bubble formation at an individual metallic nanoparticle in detail. Incipient nanobubble formation is observed by monitoring the plasmon resonance shift of an individual, illuminated Au nanoparticle, when its local environment changes from liquid to vapor. The temperature on the nanoparticle surface is monitored during this process, where a dramatic temperature jump is observed as the nanoscale vapor layer thermally decouples the nanoparticle from the surrounding liquid. By increasing the intensity of the incident light or decreasing the interparticle separation, we observe the formation of micrometer-sized bubbles resulting from the coalescence of nanoparticle-“bound” vapor envelopes. These studies provide the first direct and quantitative analysis of the evolution of light-induced steam generation by nanoparticles from the nanoscale to the macroscale, a process that is of fundamental interest for a growing number of applications.





https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2DbVQ6AnDs
Jul 22, 2013

Solar-Powered Steam Generation -- Solar steam used to clean human waste in the developing world

Researchers at Rice University's Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP) have unveiled a solar-powered sterilization system that could be a boon for more than 2.5 billion people who lack adequate sanitation. LANP's "solar steam" sterilization system converts as much as 80 percent of the energy in sunlight into germ-killing heat that can be used for off-grid sterilization. In a July 8 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, LANP researchers showed they could use the technology to sterilize human waste, an application that could improve public health in areas that lack reliable electric power.



http://www.pnas.org/content/110/29/11677.full?sid=1c7d56d7-0281-4ddb-9edc-76e1713a91a7
PNAS 2013 110 (29) 11677-11681

Compact solar autoclave based on steam generation using broadband light-harvesting nanoparticles

Oara Neumann, Curtis Feronti, Albert D. Neumann, Anjie Dong, Kevin Schell, Benjamin Lu, Eric Kim, Mary Quinn, Shea Thompson, Nathaniel Grady, Peter Nordlander, Maria Oden, and Naomi Halas

Abstract

The lack of readily available sterilization processes for medicine and dentistry practices in the developing world is a major risk factor for the propagation of disease. Modern medical facilities in the developed world often use autoclave systems to sterilize medical instruments and equipment and process waste that could contain harmful contagions. Here, we show the use of broadband light-absorbing nanoparticles as solar photothermal heaters, which generate high-temperature steam for a standalone, efficient solar autoclave useful for sanitation of instruments or materials in resource-limited, remote locations. Sterilization was verified using a standard Geobacillus stearothermophilus-based biological indicator.

According to the World Health Organization, healthcare-associated infections are the most prevalent adverse consequence of medical treatment worldwide (1⇓–3). Although this problem is disconcerting and costly in developed countries, its impact in developing regions is devastating (4). More than one-quarter of the human population worldwide lacks access to electricity, let alone the high power requirements necessary for modern sterilization systems. Because more than one-half of all people in developing regions lack access to all-weather roads, the channeling of a consistent supply of disposable sterilizing resources into these areas presents an even more daunting challenge (5). Consequently, addressing the problem of resource-constrained sterilization can be viewed as an effort to provide solutions to both power and supply chain constraints.

The underlying cause of healthcare-associated (nosocomial) infections is prolonged or focused exposure to unsanitary conditions. Such conditions can be ameliorated through the use of sanitation and sterilization methods. Sterilization involves the destruction of all microorganisms and their spores, whereas disinfection is a less robust process that involves the removal of microorganisms without complete sterilization (6). One of the simplest, most effective, and most reliable approaches for the sterilization of medical devices and materials is the use of an autoclave. The fundamental concept of an autoclave is to expose the media to be sterilized to saturated steam at an elevated temperature. On coming into contact with the medium to be sterilized, the saturated steam condenses from the gas phase to the liquid phase, transferring its latent heat of vaporization to the material to be sterilized and thus, any associated microbes on its surface. Such a rapid transfer of heat is extremely effective for denaturing proteins and may be used to destroy most known types of infectious agents, including bacteria, viruses, or viral spores.

Steam-based autoclave systems neutralize potentially infectious microorganisms localized on solid surfaces or in liquid-phase media by exposing them to high-temperature pressurized steam. The process of steam sterilization relies on both steam temperature and time duration of steam exposure to ensure irreversible destruction of all microorganisms, especially bacterial endospores, which are considered particularly thermally stable. Although steam-based sterilization is the primary method of choice for the processing of medical waste in the developed world, the large energy requirement for operation is the fundamental limitation for its adoption in developing countries, with limited or nonexistent access to sources of electricity sufficient to power such systems.

Recently, we reported the use of broadband light-absorbing particles for solar steam generation (7). A variety of nanoparticles such as metallic nanoshells, nanoshell aggregates, and conductive carbon nanoparticles, when dispersed in aqueous solution and illuminated by sunlight, has been shown to convert absorbed solar energy to steam at an efficiency of just over 80%, where less than 20% of the energy contributes to heating the liquid volume (7). This effect depends on the highly localized, strong photothermal response of these types of nanoparticles, a characteristic that is being used to effectively ablate solid tumors by irradiation with near-IR laser light with near-unity tumor remission rates (8⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓–16). In the solar steam generation process, broadband light-absorbing nanoparticles create a large number of nucleation sites for steam generation within the fluid. As light is absorbed by a nanoparticle, a temperature difference between the nanoparticle and the surrounding fluid is established because of a reduced thermal conductivity at the metal–liquid interface: this local temperature increase may become sufficient to transform the liquid in the direct vicinity of the nanoparticle into vapor. On sustained illumination, the vapor envelope surrounding the nanoparticle grows, eventually resulting in buoyancy of the nanoparticle–bubble complex. When this complex reaches the surface of the liquid, the vapor is released, resulting in vigorous nonequilibrium steam generation that does not require the bulk fluid temperature to have reached its boiling point. If the fluid is kept in an ice bath, steam is produced, even when the fluid temperature remains at 0 °C (7). Over prolonged exposure to sunlight, however, both the more-efficient process of nanoparticle-based steam generation and the less-efficient process of bulk fluid heating occur, eventually resulting in simultaneous nanoparticle-based steam generation and boiling of the bulk fluid. The combination of these two processes results in solar steam production that occurs at higher steam temperatures than can be achieved using nonparticle-based fluid heating (Fig. 1). The nanoparticles are neither dispersed into the vapor phase nor degraded by the steam generation process.

Fig. 1.



Temperature evolution of solar steam generation. (A) Temperature vs. time for Au nanoshell-dispersed water (i, liquid; ii, vapor) and water without nanoparticles (iii, liquid; iv, vapor) under solar exposure. (Au nanoparticle concentration sufficient to produce an optical density of unity.) (B) Photograph of system used in the temperature evolution of solar steam generation: (a) transparent vessel isolated with a vacuum jacket to reduce thermal losses, (b) two thermocouples for sensing the solution and the steam temperature, (c) pressure sensor, and (d) 1/16-in nozzle.

The temperature–time evolution of the nanoparticle-dispersed fluid and steam produced during solar irradiation is shown in Fig. 1A with and without the presence of nanoparticles. A detailed characterization of the nanoparticles is shown in Fig. S1. With nanoparticle dispersants, temperatures of both the liquid and the steam increase far more rapidly than the temperature of pure water (Fig. 1A, i and ii), with the liquid water reaching 100 °C more rapidly with nanoparticle dispersants than water without nanoparticles. Measurable steam production occurs at a lower water temperature for the case with nanoparticle dispersants, because nanoparticle-dispersed steam generation can occur at any fluid temperature. For the case shown here, measurable steam production appears at a water temperature of ∼70 °C, well below the steam production threshold for pure water. Perhaps most importantly, however, is the large difference in steady-state temperature achieved for the two systems: with the inclusion of nanoparticle dispersants, the temperature of both the water and the vapor increase well above the standard boiling point of water. In this case, an equilibrium temperature of 140 °C is easily achieved in the nanoparticle-dispersed water–steam system. This elevated temperature enables the use of nanoparticle-generated solar steam for medical sterilization applications.

The evolution of solar steam generation from Au nanoshells dispersed in water was quantified in an open-loop system (Fig. 1B) consisting of a 200-mL vessel isolated with a vacuum jacket to prevent heat loss, a pressure sensor, and two thermocouples to monitor both the liquid and vapor temperatures. The vessel was illuminated with solar radiation focused by a 0.69-m2 Fresnel lens into the glass vessel containing 100 mL nanoparticles at a concentration of 1010 particles/m3 or alternatively, water with no nanoparticles as a control. On solar illumination, vapor was allowed to escape through a 16-µm-diameter nozzle, while the pressure and temperature were recorded.

Here, we show two different compact solar autoclaves driven by nanoparticle-based solar steam generation that are well-suited to off-grid applications. Using a solar concentrator (Fresnel lens or dish mirror) to deliver sunlight into the nanoparticle-dispersed aqueous working fluid, this process is capable of delivering steam at a temperature of 115–135 °C into a 14.2-L volume for a time period sufficient for sterilization. Sterilization was verified using a standard Geobacillus stearothermophilus-based biological indicator.

Experimental Section

Two solar sterilization designs have been developed. One is a portable, closed-loop solar autoclave system suitable for sterilization of medical or dental tools; the second design is a solar dish collector autoclave system that can serve as a standalone, off-grid steam source suitable for human or animal waste sterilization systems or other applications. Steam from the closed-loop system (Fig. 2A) is produced under solar illumination, transported into the sterilization volume, condensed, and then delivered back into the fluid vessel. The design consists of three main subsystems: the steam generation module (Fig. 2A, I), the connection module (Fig. 2A, II), and the sterilization module (Fig. 2A, III). More detailed schematics of the system are presented in Figs. S1, S2, and S3.

Fig. 2.



(A) Schematic and photograph of the closed-loop solar autoclave showing (I) the steam generation module, (II) the connection module, and (III) the sterilization module. The components of the system are (a) sterilization vessel, (b) pressure sensor, (c) thermocouple sensor, (d) relief valve, (e and f) control valves, (g) solar collector containing the nanoparticle-based heater solution, (h) check valve, and (k) solar concentrator (a plastic Fresnel lens of 0.67-m2 surface area). (B) Schematic and photograph of the open-loop solar autoclave: the components of the system are (i) solar concentrator (44-in dish mirror), (ii) heat collector containing metallic nanoparticles, and (iii) sterilization vessel that contains a pressure sensor, two thermocouple sensors, a steam relief valve, and two hand pumps and valves that control the input and output of waste. The solar concentrator dish system has a dual tracking system powered by a small car battery recharged by a solar cell unit.

The particle solution is contained in a custom-built insulated glass vessel with two inlets that lead to the connection module. Solar collection is accomplished with a relatively small and inexpensive Fresnel lens. The hot solar steam generated within this module is channeled out one nozzle of the connection module into the sterilization module, where it condenses on the objects to be sterilized, returning as condensate to the steam generation module. A check valve at one port of the steam generation module ensures a unidirectional flow of steam throughout the entire system.

The sterilization module consists of an insulated pressure vessel (a converted stovetop autoclave with a 14.2-L capacity). A condensate return hole (diameter of 0.86 cm) was milled on the bottom face of the autoclave vessel 10 cm away from the center. Similarly, a steam inlet hole (diameter of 0.86 cm) was milled on the lid of the sterilizing vessel 10 cm away from the center. A finite element analysis (SolidWorks using the Tresca maximum) was performed to identify the mechanically weakest portions of the pressure vessel when placed under high-stress conditions (Fig. S3). By varying the radial position of the hole in the base of the pressure vessel, a minimum factor of safety (vessel material strength/design load) under many different machining configurations was determined. A 0.86-cm-diameter hole positioned 10 cm from the center of the pressure vessel was determined to be the optimal location, with a minimum factor of safety of 3.35. To minimize heat losses from the steam generation module and the sterilization module, the system was insulated with a sealant (Great Stuff Fireblock Insulating Foam Sealant) applied to the surfaces of the vessels and covered with aluminum foil to further minimize heat loss.

The connection module consists of two parts: the steam connection, which allows steam to flow from the steam generation module to the sterilization module, and the condensate connection, which returns the condensate from the sterilization module (Fig. S3). The steam connection consists of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) tubing insulated in fiberglass pipe wrap and a ball valve; the condensate connection consists of a ball valve, PTFE tubing insulated in fiberglass pipe wrap, a check valve, and a pressure release valve. Both units contain an adaptor to connect to the steam generation module.

The solar-generated steam enters the sterilization module at the top of the vessel, forcing the unsterile air down and out of the vessel through the air exhaust tube, which is connected to the control valve. Trapped unsterile air can have an insulating effect and prevent complete sterilization; therefore, it is critical that as much air as possible be removed from the sterilization module. After the unsterile air is purged from the system, the control valve is closed to allow pressure to build up in the vessel. The cycle is maintained at a minimum of 115 °C and 12 psig and a maximum of 140 °C and 20 psig in all regions of the sterilization module throughout the duration of a sterilization cycle. The condensate is channeled back to the steam generation module by a check valve when the hydrostatic pressure exceeds the maximum pressure of the valve (rated at 0.3 psi).

An optimized, open-loop, prototypical compact solar autoclave for human waste sterilization is presented in Fig. 2B. Using a 44-in solar dish collector to focus sunlight into the nanoparticle-dispersed aqueous working fluid, we deliver steam into a 14.2-L capacity sterilization volume (a commercially available stovetop autoclave). This volume could easily accommodate the 10-L capacity volume of a mobile sanitation (moSAN) toilet, for example (a personal-use toilet designed for Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH and originally developed for the urban poor in Bangladesh), and if operated three times per week, it could process the weekly amount of both solid and liquid waste produced by a household of four adults (∼35 L). Solar energy is supplied to this unit through a reflective parabolic dish that tracks the sun, is powered by a small car battery, and is rechargeable with a small solar panel. The generated steam is transmitted to the autoclave through silicon tubing. Unprocessed waste is delivered to the autoclave by means of a mechanical hand pump, which can be easily operated by a single person. After the sterilization process, the sanitized waste is removed by gravity. Because of its simple, modular design, the system can easily be expanded to provide high-temperature steam for larger-scale applications.

The nanoparticle solution is contained in a custom-designed vacuum-insulated vessel positioned at the focus of the parabolic reflector. The steam generated within this module is channeled into the waste sterilization module. Under typical operation, the steam temperature is maintained at 132 °C for 5 min, the duration of time required for an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard sterilization cycle. The steam temperature was monitored at the output of the steam generation module, and the waste solution temperature was monitored inside the sterilization module. These two locations are expected to reach the sterilization temperature with slight thermal (gas and liquid phases) differences inside the sterilization module during the sterilization process.

The steam temperature was monitored in both geometries at the steam connection and the condensate connection directly adjacent to the sterilization module. These two locations are expected to have the highest and lowest steam temperatures, respectively, allowing us to measure the overall temperature gradient generated inside the sterilization module during the sterilization process. The steam temperature before and during a sterilization cycle is shown in

Fig. 3.



The autoclave temperature distribution of the (A) closed-loop and (B) open-loop solar autoclaves. The temperature of steam vs. time measured in two different locations in autoclave: top (red curve) and respective bottom (blue curve). The dashed line indicates temperature required for sterilization, and the red box indicates the sterilization regime (115 °C for 20 min or 132 °C for 4.6 min). The ambient temperature (green) was monitored as reference.

The red curve in Fig. 3 is the temperature of the steam at the inlet valve to the sterilization vessel, the blue curve in Fig. 3 is the temperature of the condensate at the sterilization vessel output, and the ambient temperature in Fig. 3 is the green curve. The dashed gray line in Fig. 3 represents the temperature required for sterilization (115–132 °C). In the case of the closed-loop system (Fig. 3A), the irregular spikes in the temperature curves correspond to when the steam begins to enter the vessel. The bottom thermocouple shows two major spikes during warm-up that are generated by the release of unsterilized air from the sterilization module. The first spike induced turbulence into the system, which exposed the thermocouple briefly to hotter steam. The second jump in the temperature data of the output thermocouple corresponds to the release of the remaining unsterilized insulated air. The monitoring data clearly show that the autoclave is easily capable of maintaining a temperature over 115 °C for more than 30 min of the sterilization time required at that temperature. In the case of the open-loop system (Fig. 3B), the red curve is the gas temperature of the steam measured at the vessel inlet valve, the blue curve is the temperature inside the vessel contents (artificial fecal material), and the ambient temperature is the green curve. The dashed gray line represents the desired temperature required for sterilization (132 °C). After an initial ramp-up period of ∼20 min, the sterilization temperature is reached, and the temperature–time curve continues to oscillate around this value because of the frequent release of steam from the sterilization vessel through the pressure safety valve. The solar thermal evolution data show that the autoclave is capable of maintaining a temperature around 132 °C for more than 5 min.

To test whether our systems can achieve the Sterility Assurance Level defined by the Food and Drug Administration (17), we operated the system through a cycle with the sterilization vessel containing commercial biological indicator strips for G. stearothermophilus (EZTest Self-Contained Biological Indicator Strips; SGM Biotech), a reference strain commonly used for sterilization testing. The test strips were secured in the sterilization module near the inlet stream and outlet stream taps or immersed in a fecal simulator solution. After completion of the cycle, the strips were incubated for 36 h at 55–60 °C. The results are shown in Fig. 4.

Fig. 4.



Biological indicators used to test solar autoclave sterilization. Test vials of G. stearothermophilus placed in various locations in the sterilization module: (A) the top/bottom of vessels were sealed for solid material and unprocessed control and (B) placed in fecal stimulant sealed for liquid–solid material and unprocessed control. They were used to test solar autoclave sterilization. The sterilization is confirmed by color change of vial contents.

The color change shown by the vials in Fig. 4, relative to the control vial, indicates that sterilization is achieved by operating the solar autoclave through one 30-min cycle at 115 °C for the closed-loop system and one 5-min cycle at 132 °C for the open-loop system. If some spores survive a sterilization cycle, the biological indicator culture medium undergoes a color change from purple to yellow. The observed color change indicates that spore survival did not occur.

In conclusion, we have shown two compact solar autoclaves enabled by solar steam generation using broadband, light-absorbing nanoparticles. The systems maintain temperatures between 115 °C and 132 °C for the time period sufficient to sterilize the contents of a 14.2-L volume, which is in accordance with Food and Drug Administration sterilization requirements. Using a parabolic dish solar collector enables a faster heat-up time and higher operating temperatures, which shorten the sterilization cycle time significantly (from 15 min at 121 °C to 5 min at 132 °C). The nanoparticles are not consumed by the heating process and can be reused indefinitely; the only consumable is water, which need not be sterilized before use. This type of system can easily be expanded to provide direct steam generation for additional applications, which may include distillation-based water purification, cooking, waste remediation, or electricity generation.

Figs. S1, S2, and S3 show extensive schematics of the configuration system and characterizations of metallic nanostructures.
 
References

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PATENTS

WO2014127345
SOLAR STEAM PROCESSING OF BIOFUEL FEEDSTOCK AND SOLAR DISTILLATION OF BIOFUELS


A method of producing bioethanol that includes receiving a feedstock solution that includes polysaccharides in a vessel comprising a complex is described. The complex may be copper nanoparticles, copper oxide nanoparticles, nanoshells, nanorods, carbon moieties, encapsulated nanoshells, encapsulated nanoparticles, and/or branched nanostructures. The method also includes applying electromagnetic (EM) radiation to the complex such that the complex absorbs the EM radiation to generate heat. Using the heat generated by the complex, sugar molecules may be extracted from the polysaccharides in the feedstock solution, and fermented. Then, bioethanol may be extracted from the vessel.

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Serial Nos. 61/765,992 and 61/775,751, which are incorporated by reference in their entirety.

BACKGROUND

[0002] The production of bioethanol from cellulosic feedstock, such as switchgrass, may require that the feedstock be processed such that the fermentable carbohydrates and sugars are released from the initial material. This is an intensive processing step that currently requires the input of energy in the form of heat, the use of caustic chemicals to break down plant cell walls, or the use of enzymes for that purpose, all of which add cost to the final product, currently rendering it noncompetitive with respect to fossil-derived fuels.

SUMMARY

[0003] In general, in one aspect, the invention relates to a method of producing bioethanol that includes receiving a feedstock solution that includes polysaccharides in a vessel comprising a complex. The complex may be copper nanoparticles, copper oxide nanoparticles, nanoshells, nanorods, carbon moieties, encapsulated nanoshells, encapsulated nanoparticles, and/or branched nanostructures. The method also includes applying electromagnetic (EM) radiation to the complex such that the complex absorbs the EM radiation to generate heat. Using the heat generated by the complex, sugar molecules may be extracted from the polysaccharides in the feedstock solution, and fermented. Then, bioethanol may be extracted from the vessel.

[0004] In general, in one aspect, the invention relates to a system for producing bioethanol that includes a vessel with a complex. The vessel is configured to receive a feedstock solution that includes polysaccharides in a vessel comprising a complex. The complex may be copper nanoparticles, copper oxide nanoparticles, nanoshells, nanorods, carbon moieties, encapsulated nanoshells, encapsulated nanoparticles, and/or branched nanostructures. The method also includes applying electromagnetic (EM) radiation to the complex such that the complex absorbs the EM radiation to generate heat. Using the heat generated by the complex, sugar molecules may be extracted from the polysaccharides in the feedstock solution, and fermented. Then, bioethanol may be extracted from the vessel.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

[0005] FIG. 1 shows a schematic of a complex in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention.

[0006] FIG. 2 shows a flow chart in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention.

[0007] FIG. 3 shows a chart of the absorbance in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention.

[0008] FIGS. 4A- B show charts of an energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy

(EDS) measurement in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention.

[0009] FIG. 5 shows a chart of the absorbance in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention.

[0010] FIG. 6 shows a chart of an EDS measurement in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. [0011] FIG. 7 shows a chart of the absorbance in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention.

[0012] FIG. 8 shows a flow chart in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention.

[0013] FIG. 9 shows a chart of the absorbance in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention.

[0014] FIG. 10 shows a chart of an EDS measurement in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention.

[0015] FIGS. 1 lA-11C show charts of the porosity of gold corral structures in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention.

[0016] FIGS. 12A-12C show charts of the mass loss of water into steam in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention.

[0017] FIGS. 13A-13B show charts of the energy capture efficiency in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention.

[0018] FIG. 14 shows a system in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention.

[0019] FIG. 15 shows a flowchart for a method of producing bioethanol in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention.

[0020] FIG. 16 shows an example system for producing bioethanol in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention.

[0021] FIG. 17 shows an example of a system in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention.

[0022] FIG. 18 shows an example of a system in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention.

[0023] FIGS. 19A and 19B show the temperature and pressure as a function of time in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. [0024] FIG. 20 shows an amount of D-Glucose and D-Galactose extracted in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention.



DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0025] Specific embodiments of the invention will now be described in detail with reference to the accompanying figures. Like elements in the various figures are denoted by like reference numerals for consistency.

[0026] In the following detailed description of embodiments of the invention, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a more thorough understanding of the invention. However, it will be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art that the invention may be practiced without these specific details. In other instances, well-known features have not been described in detail to avoid unnecessarily complicating the description.

[0027] In general, embodiments of the invention relate to the production of bioethanol using a steam generation process, where the steam is generated using nanoparticles.

[0028] The solar steam production using nanonparticles as described, for example, in U.S. Application No. 13/326,482, U.S. Patent Application No. 13/514,762, and PCT Application No. US2011/062497, the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety, along with multiple applications thereof, may be used to process cellulosic feedstock either as steam or as a high pressure, high temperature liquid. In one or more embodiments of the invention, the application of solar steam may reduce the energy cost for processing the cellulosic feedstock. Moreover, the processing method for extraction of fermentable biomass may be also take advantage of this essentially free source of high temperature/high pressure steam using our earlier disclosed methods. The solar steam source may be adapted to provide both elevated temperatures and pressures as needed for a liquid water batch extractor. [0029] In accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention, a second important processing step for biofuels, most specifically bioethanol, is distillation of the fermented extract to produce ethanol of the appropriate H2O concentration, for a particular application, such as for use in vehicles. In one or more embodiments of the invention, nanoparticle-enabled solar steam generation may be performed on mixtures of liquids for distillation purposes. In these embodiments, the method may produce a richer ethanol distillate than normal thermal heating methods, which may simplify and streamline the final distillation step in bioethanol production.

[0030] In accordance with embodiments of the invention, bioethanol production from lignocellulosic biomass such as hay or straw may be used to generate fuel. Alfalfa and Coastal Bermudagrass are known non-food feeds. A pretreatment of the feedstock prior to fermentation is crucial in order to achieve a high ethanol yield. The cell walls of grass contain cellulose and hemicellulose. These polysaccharides need to be degraded into smaller units which are accessible to yeast to perform fermentation.

[0031] In one or more embodiments of the invention, nanoparticle-generated solar steam may be used for the hot water pretreatment of feedstock. If the solar steam is kept in a closed system, high temperature and a significant pressure builds up. The conditions that embodiments of the invention may reach are sufficient for the pretreatment process. A slurry of the feedstock in water is kept in a pretreatment module where the steam streams into so the temperature and pressure rises to a regime where the polysaccharides degrade into smaller units. This improves the fermentability of the raw material and will lead to higher ethanol yield.

[0032] Embodiments of the invention use complexes (e.g., nanoshells) that have absorbed EM radiation to produce the energy used to generate the heated fluid. The invention may provide for a complex mixed in a liquid solution, used to coat a wall of a vessel, integrated with a material of which a vessel is made, and/or otherwise suitably integrated with a vessel used to apply EM radiation to the complex. All the piping and associated fittings, pumps, valves, gauges, and other equipment described, used, or contemplated herein, either actually or as one of ordinary skill in the art would conceive, are made of materials resistant to the heat and/or fluid and/or vapor transported, transformed, pressurized, created, or otherwise handled within those materials.

[0033] A source of EM radiation may be any source capable of emitting energy at one or more wavelengths. For example, EM radiation may be any source that emits radiation in the ultraviolet, visible, and infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. A source of EM radiation may be manmade or occur naturally. Examples of a source of EM radiation may include, but are not limited to, the sun, waste heat from an industrial process, and a light bulb. One or more concentrators may be used to intensify and/or concentrate the energy emitted by a source of EM radiation. Examples of a concentrator include, but are not limited to, lens(es), a parabolic trough(s), mirror(s), black paint, or any combination thereof.

[0034] Embodiments of this invention may be used in any residential, commercial, and/or industrial application where heating of a fluid may be needed. Examples of such applications include, but are not limited to, alcohol production (e.g., ethanol, methanol) as for a biofuels plant, chemical treatment, chemicals and allied products, (e.g., rubber, plastics, textile production), laboratories, perfumeries, air products (e.g., argon, hydrogen, oxygen), drug manufacturing, and alcoholic beverages.

[0035] In one or more embodiments, the complex may include one or more nanoparticle structures including, but not limited to, nanoshells, coated nanoshells, metal colloids, nanorods, branched or coral structures, and/or carbon moieties. In one or more embodiments, the complex may include a mixture of nanoparticle structures to absorb EM radiation. Specifically, the complex may be designed to maximize the absorption of the electromagnetic radiation emitted from the sun. Further, each complex may absorb EM radiation over a specific range of wavelengths.

[0036] In one or more embodiments, the complex may include metal nanoshells. A nanoshell is a substantially spherical dielectric core surrounded by a thin metallic shell. The plasmon resonance of a nanoshell may be determined by the size of the core relative to the thickness of the metallic shell. Nanoshells may be fabricated according to U.S. Patent 6,685,986, hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety. The relative size of the dielectric core and metallic shell, as well as the optical properties of the core, shell, and medium, determines the plasmon resonance of a nanoshell. Accordingly, the overall size of the nanoshell is dependent on the absorption wavelength desired. Metal nanoshells may be designed to absorb or scatter light throughout the visible and infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. For example, a plasmon resonance in the near infrared region of the spectrum (700nm-900 nm) may have a substantially spherical silica core having a diameter between 90nm-175 nm and a gold metallic layer between 4 nm-35nm.

[0037] A complex may also include other core-shell structures, for example, a metallic core with one or more dielectric and/or metallic layers using the same or different metals. For example, a complex may include a gold or silver nanoparticle, spherical or rod-like, coated with a dielectric layer and further coated with another gold or silver layer. A complex may also include other core-shell structures, for example hollow metallic shell nanoparticles and/or multi-layer shells.

[0038] In one or more embodiments, a complex may include a nanoshell encapsulated with a dielectric or rare earth element oxide. For example, gold nanoshells may be coated with an additional shell layer made from silica, titanium or europium oxide.

[0039] In one embodiment of the invention, the complexes may be aggregated or otherwise combined to create aggregates. In such cases, the resulting aggregates may include complexes of the same type or complexes of different types.

[0040] In one embodiment of the invention, complexes of different types may be combined as aggregates, in solution, or embedded on substrate. By combining various types of complexes, a broad range of the EM spectrum may be absorbed.

[0041] FIG. 1 is a schematic of a nanoshell coated with an additional rare earth element oxide in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. Typically, a gold nanoshell has a silica core 102 surrounded by a thin gold layer 104. As stated previously, the size of the gold layer is relative to the size of the core and determines the plasmon resonance of the particle. According to one or more embodiments of the invention, a nanoshell may then be coated with a dielectric or rare earth layer 106. The additional layer 106 may serve to preserve the resultant plasmon resonance and protect the particle from any temperature effects, for example, melting of the gold layer 104.

[0042] FIG. 2 is a flow chart of a method of manufacturing the coated nanoshells in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. In ST 200, nanoshells are manufactured according to known techniques. In the example of europium oxide, in ST 202, 20 mL of a nanoshell solution may be mixed with 10 mL of 2.5M (NH2)2CO and 20 mL of 0.1M of Eu(N03)3xH20 solutions in a glass container. In ST 204, the mixture may be heated to boiling for 3-5 minutes under vigorous stirring. The time the mixture is heated may determine the thickness of the additional layer, and may also determine the number of nanoparticle aggregates in solution. The formation of nanostructure aggregates is known to create additional plasmon resonances at wavelengths higher than the individual nanostructure that may contribute to the energy absorbed by the nanostructure for heat generation. In ST 206, the reaction may then be stopped by immersing the glass container in an ice bath. In ST 208, the solution may then be cleaned by centrifugation, and then redispersed into the desired solvent. The additional layer may contribute to the solubility of the nanoparticles in different solvents. Solvents that may be used in one or more embodiments of the invention include, but are not limited to, water, ammonia, ethylene glycol, and glycerin.

[0043] In addition to europium, other examples of element oxides that may be used in the above recipe include, but are not limited to, erbium, samarium, praseodymium, and dysprosium. The additional layer is not limited to rare earth oxides. Any coating of the particle that may result in a higher melting point, better solubility in a particular solvent, better deposition onto a particular substrate, and/or control over the number of aggregates or plasmon resonance of the particle may be used. Examples of the other coatings that may be used, but are not limited to silica, titanium dioxide, polymer-based coatings, additional layers formed by metals or metal alloys, and/or combinations of materials.

[0044] FIG. 3 is an absorbance spectrum of three nanoparticle structures that may be included in a complex in accordance with one or more embodiments disclosed herein. In FIG. 3, a gold nanoshell spectrum 308 may be engineered by selecting the core and shell dimensions to obtain a plasmon resonance peak at -800 nm. FIG. 3 also includes a Eu2O3-encapsulated gold nanoshell spectrum 310, where the Eu2O3-encapsulated gold nanoshell is manufactured using the same nanoshells from the nanoshell spectrum 308. As may be seen in FIG 3, there may be some particle aggregation in the addition of the europium oxide layer. However, the degree of particle aggregation may be controlled by varying the reaction time described above. FIG. 3 also includes a -100 nm diameter spherical gold colloid spectrum 312 that may be used to absorb electromagnetic radiation in a different region of the electromagnetic spectrum. In the specific examples of FIG. 3, the Eu2O3-encapsulated gold nanoshells may be mixed with the gold colloids to construct a complex that absorbs any EM radiation from 500 nm to greater than 1200 nm. The concentrations of the different nanoparticle structures may be manipulated to achieve the desired absorption of the complex.

[0045] X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and/or energy dispersive x- ray spectroscopy (EDS) measurements may be used to investigate the chemical composition and purity of the nanoparticle structures in the complex. For example, FIG. 4 A shows an XPS spectrum in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. XPS measurements were acquired with a PHI Quantera X-ray photoelectron spectrometer. FIG. 4A shows the XPS spectra in different spectral regions corresponding to the elements of the nanoshell encapsulated with europium oxide. FIG. 4A shows the XPS spectra display the binding energies for Eu (3d 5/2) at 1130 eV 414, Eu (2d 3/2) at 1160eV 416, Au (4f 7/2) at 83.6 eV 418, and Au (4f 5/2) at 87.3 eV 420 of nanoshells encapsulated with europium oxide. For comparison, FIG. 4B shows an XPS spectrum of europium oxide colloids that may be manufactured according to methods known in the art. FIG. 4B shows the XPS spectra display the binding energies for Eu (3d 5/2) at 1130 eV 422 and Eu (2d 3/2) at 1160eV 424 of europium oxide colloids.

[0046] In one or more embodiments of the invention, the complex may include solid metallic nanoparticles encapsulated with an additional layer as described above. For example, using the methods described above, solid metallic nanoparticles may be encapsulated using silica, titanium, europium, erbium, samarium, praseodymium, and dysprosium. Examples of solid metallic nanoparticles include, but are not limited to, spherical gold, silver, copper, or nickel nanoparticles or solid metallic nanorods. The specific metal may be chosen based on the plasmon resonance, or absorption, of the nanoparticle when encapsulated. The encapsulating elements may be chosen based on chemical compatibility, the encapsulating elements ability to increase the melting point of the encapsulated nanoparticle structure, and the collective plasmon resonance, or absorption, of a solution of the encapsulated nanostructure, or the plasmon resonance of the collection of encapsulated nanostructures when deposited on a substrate.

[0047] In one or more embodiments, the complex may also include copper colloids. Copper colloids may be synthesized using a solution-phase chemical reduction method. For example, 50 mL of 0.4 M aqueous solution of L- ascorbic acid, 0.8M of Polyvinyl pyridine (PVP), and 0.01M of copper (II) nitride may be mixed and heated to 70 degree Celsius until the solution color changes from a blue-green color to a red color. The color change indicates the formation of copper nanoparticles. FIG. 5 is an experimental and theoretical spectrum in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. FIG. 5 includes an experimental absorption spectrum 526 of copper colloids in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. Therefore, copper colloids may be used to absorb electromagnetic radiation in the 550 nm to 900 nm range.

[0048] FIG. 5 also includes a theoretical absorption spectrum 528 calculated using Mie scattering theory. In one or more embodiments, Mie scattering theory may be used to theoretically determine the absorbance of one or more nanoparticle structures to calculate and predict the overall absorbance of the complex. Thus, the complex may be designed to maximize the absorbance of solar electromagnetic radiation.

[0049] Referring to FIG. 6, an EDS spectrum of copper colloids in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention is shown. The EDS spectrum of the copper colloids confirms the existence of copper atoms by the appearance peaks 630. During the EDS measurements, the particles are deposited on a silicon substrate, as evidenced by the presence of the silicon peak 632.

[0050] In one or more embodiments, the complex may include copper oxide nanoparticles. Copper oxide nanostructures may be synthesized by 20 mL aqueous solution of 62.5mM Cu(NO3)2being directly mixed with 12 mL NH4OH under stirring. The mixture may be stirred vigorously at approximately 80°C for 3 hours, then the temperature is reduced to 40°C and the solution is stirred overnight. The solution color turns from blue to black color indicating the formation of the copper oxide nanostructure. The copper oxide nanostructures may then be washed and re-suspended in water via centrifugation. FIG. 7 shows the absorption of copper oxide nanoparticles in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. The absorption of the copper oxide nanoparticles 734 may be used to absorb electromagnetic radiation in the region from -900 nm to beyond 1200 nm. In one or more embodiments of the invention, the complex may include branched nanostructures. One of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that embodiments of the invention are not limited to strict gold branched structures. For example, silver, nickel, copper, or platinum branched structures may also be used. FIG. 8 is a flow chart of the method of manufacturing gold branched structures in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. In ST 800, an aqueous solution of 1% HAuCl4may be aged for two-three weeks. In ST 802, a polyvinyl pyridine (PVP) solution may be prepared by dissolving 0.25 g in approximately 20 mL ethanol solution and rescaled with water to a final volume of 50mL. In ST 804, 50 mL of the 1% HAuCl4and 50 mL of the PVP solution may be directly mixed with 50 mL aqueous solution of 0.4M L-ascorbic acid under stirring. The solution color may turn immediately in dark blue-black color which indicates the formation of a gold nanoflower or nano-coral. Then, in ST 806, the Au nanostructures may then be washed and resuspended in water via centrifugation. In other words, the gold branched nanostructures may be synthesized through L-ascorbic acid reduction of aqueous chloroaurate ions at room temperature with addition of PVP as the capping agent. The capping polymer PVP may stabilize the gold branched nanostructures by preventing them from aggregating. In addition, the gold branched nanostructures may form a porous polymer-type matrix. [0052] FIG. 9 shows the absorption of a solution of gold branched nanostructures in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. As can be seen in FIG. 9, the absorption spectrum 936 of the gold branched nanostructures is almost flat for a large spectral range, which may lead to considerably high photon absorption. The breadth of the spectrum 936 of the gold branched nanostructures may be due to the structural diversity of the gold branched nanostructures or, in other works, the collective effects of which may come as an average of individual branches of the gold branched/corals nanostructure.

[0053] FIG. 10 shows the EDS measurements of the gold branched nanostructures in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. The EDS measurements may be performed to investigate the chemical composition and purity of the gold branched nanostructures. In addition, the peaks 1038 in the EDS measurements of gold branched nanostructures confirm the presence of Au atoms in the gold branched nanostructures.

[0054] FIG. 11 shows a Brunauer-Emmett-Teller (BET) surface area and pore size distribution analysis of branches in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. The BET surface area and pore size may be performed to characterize the branched nanostructures. FIG. 11A presents the nitrogen adsorption-desorption isotherms of a gold corral sample calcinated at 150 C for 8 hours. The isotherms may exhibit a type IV isotherm with a N2hysteresis loops in desorption branch as shown. As shown in FIG. 11 A, the isotherms may be relatively flat in the low-pressure region (P/P0< 0.7). Also, the adsorption and desorption isotherms may be completely superposed, a fact which may demonstrate that the adsorption of the samples mostly likely occurs in the pores. At the relative high pressure region, the isotherms may form a loop due to the capillarity agglomeration phenomena. FIG. 11B presents a bimodal pore size distribution, showing the first peak 1140 at the pore diameter of 2.9 nm and the second peak 1142 at 6.5 nm. FIG. 11C shows the BET plots of gold branched nanostructures in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. A value of 10.84 m /g was calculated for the specific surface area of branches in this example by using a multipoint BET-equation.

[0055] In one or more embodiments of the invention, the gold branched nanostructures dispersed in water may increase the nucleation sites for boiling, absorb electromagnetic energy, decrease the bubble lifetime due to high surface temperature and high porosity, and increase the interfacial turbulence by the water gradient temperature and the Brownian motion of the particles. The efficiency of a gold branched complex solution may be high because it may allow the entire fluid to be involved in the boiling process.

[0056] As demonstrated in the above figures and text, in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention, the complex may include a number of different specific nanostructures chosen to maximize the absorption of the complex in a desired region of the electromagnetic spectrum. In addition, the complex may be suspended in different solvents, for example water or ethylene glycol. Also, the complex may be deposited onto a surface according to known techniques. For example, a molecular or polymer linker may be used to fix the complex to a surface, while allowing a solvent to be heated when exposed to the complex. The complex may also be embedded in a matrix or porous material. For example, the complex may be embedded in a polymer or porous matrix material formed to be inserted into a particular embodiment as described below. For example, the complex could be formed into a removable cartridge. As another example, a porous medium (e.g., fiberglass) may be embedded with the complex and placed in the interior of a vessel containing a fluid to be heated. The complex may also be formed into shapes in one or more embodiments described below in order to maximize the surface of the complex and, thus, maximize the absorption of EM radiation. In addition, the complex may be embedded in a packed column or coated onto rods inserted into one or more embodiments described below. [0057] FIGS. 12A-12C show charts of the mass loss and temperature increase of different nanostructures that may be used in a complex in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. The results shown in FIGS. 12A- 12C were performed to monitor the mass loss of an aqueous nanostructure solution for 10 minutes under sunlight (FIG. 12B) versus non-pulsed diode laser illumination at 808 nm (FIG. 12A). In FIG. 12A, the mass loss versus time of the laser illumination at 808 nm is shown for Eu203-coated nanoshells 1244, non-coated gold nanoshells 1246, and gold nanoparticles with a diameter of -100 nm 1248. Under laser exposure, as may be expected from the absorbance shown in FIG. 3, at 808 nm illumination, the coated and non-coated nanoshells exhibit a mass loss due to the absorbance of the incident electromagnetic radiation at 808 nm. In addition, as the absorbance is lower at 808 nm, the 100 nm diameter gold colloid exhibits little mass loss at 808 nm illumination. In Figure 12 A, the Au nanoparticles demonstrated a lower loss rate that was nearly the same as water because the laser wavelength was detuned from plasmon resonance frequency. The greatest mass loss was obtained by adding a layer around the gold nanoshells, where the particle absorption spectrum was approximately the same as the solar spectrum (see FIG 3.)

[0058] In FIG, 12B, the mass loss as a function of time under exposure to the sun in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention is shown. In FIG. 12B, the mass loss under sun exposure with an average power of 20 W is shown for Eu2O3-coated nanoshells 1250, non-coated gold nanoshells 1252, gold nanoparticles with a diameter of - 100 nm 1254, and a water control 1256. As in the previous example, the greatest mass loss may be obtained by adding a rare earth or dielectric layer around a nanoshell.

[0059] The resulting mass loss curves in FIGS. 12A and 12B show significant water evaporation rates for Eu2O3-coated gold nanoshells. The mass loss may be slightly greater under solar radiation because the particles were able to absorb light from a broader range of wavelengths. In addition, the collective effect of aggregates broadens the absorption spectrum of the oxide-coated nanoparticles, which may help to further amplify the heating effect and create local areas of high temperature, or local hot spots. Aggregates may also allow a significant increase in boiling rates due to collective self organizing forces. The oxide layer may further enhance steam generation by increasing the surface area of the nanoparticle, thus providing more boiling nucleation sites per particle, while conserving the light-absorbing properties of the nanostructure.

[0060] FIG. 12C shows the temperature increase versus time under the 808 nm laser exposure in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. In FIG. 12C, the temperature increase under the 808 nm laser exposure is shown for Eu2O3-coated nanoshells 1258, non-coated gold nanoshells 1260, gold nanoparticles with a diameter of -100 nm 1262, and a water control 1264. As may be expected, the temperature of the solutions of the different nanostructures that may be included in the complex increases due to the absorption of the incident electromagnetic radiation of the specific nanostructure and the conversion of the absorbed electromagnetic radiation in to heat.

[0061] FIG. 13 A is a chart of the solar trapping efficiency in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. To quantify the energy trapping efficiency of the complex, steam is generated in a flask and throttled through a symmetric convergent-divergent nozzle. The steam is then cooled and collected into an ice bath maintained at 0°C. The nozzle serves to isolate the high pressure in the boiler from the low pressure in the ice bath and may stabilize the steam flow. Accordingly, the steam is allowed to maintain a steady dynamic state for data acquisition purposes. In FIG. 13 A, the solar energy capture efficiency (η) of water (i) and Eu203 -coated nanoshells (ii) and gold branched (ii) nanostructures is shown. The resulting thermal efficiency of steam formation may be estimated at 80% for the coated nanoshell complex and 95% for a gold branched complex. By comparison, water has approximately 10% efficiency under the same conditions.

[0062] In one or more embodiments of the invention, the concentration of the complex may be modified to maximize the efficiency of the system. For example, in the case where the complex is in solution, the concentration of the different nanostructures that make up the complex for absorbing EM radiation may be modified to optimize the absorption and, thus, optimize the overall efficiency of the system. In the case where the complex is deposited on a surface, the surface coverage may be modified accordingly.

[0063] In FIG. 13B, the steam generation efficiency versus gold nanoshell concentration for solar and electrical heating in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention is shown. The results show an enhancement in efficiency for both electrical 1366 and solar 1368 heating sources, confirming that the bubble nucleation rate increases with the concentration of complex. At high concentrations, the complex is likely to form small aggregates with small inter-structure gaps. These gaps may create "hot spots", where the intensity of the electric field may be greatly enhanced, causing an increase in temperature of the surrounding water. The absorption enhancement under electrical energy 1366 is not as dramatic as that under solar power 1368 because the solar spectrum includes energetic photons in the NIR, visible and UV that are not present in the electric heater spectrum. At the higher concentrations, the steam generation efficiency begins to stabilize, indicating a saturation behavior. This may result from a shielding effect by the particles at the outermost regions of the flask, which may serve as a virtual blackbody around the particles in the bulk solution.

[0064] FIG. 14 shows a system in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. The bioethanol producing system 1400 demonstrated in FIG. 14 includes a bioethanol extracting system 1420. The bioethanol extracting system 1420 includes a vessel 1424 and concentrator 1422. The EM radiation source 1414 supplies the radiation to the concentrator 1422 to provide the energy to produce the bioethanol from the feedstock. The bioethanol producing system 1400 also includes a feedstock supply system 1450 that includes a feedstock source 1452 and pump 1454. The feedstock supply system 1450 may mix the feedstock into with a solution prior to pumping the feedstock solution into the vessel 1424. The bioethanol producing system 1400 may optionally include a water heater 1412 to preheat the feedstock solution in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. The bioethanol producing system 1400 may also include an optional condenser 1440 for collecting the bioethanol produced.

[0065] In one or more embodiments of the invention, each EM radiation source (e.g., EM radiation source 1414) is any other natural and/or manmade source capable of emitting one or more wavelengths of energy. The EM radiation source may also be a suitable combination of sources of EM radiation, whether emitting energy using the same wavelengths or different wavelengths.

[0066] Optionally, in one or more embodiments of the invention, each EM radiation concentrator (e.g., EM radiation concentrator 1422) is a device used to intensify the energy emitted by an EM radiation source. Examples of an EM radiation concentrator include, but are not limited to, one or more lenses (e.g., Fresnel lens, biconvex, negative meniscus, simple lenses, complex lenses), a parabolic trough, black paint, one or more disks, an array of multiple elements (e.g., lenses, disks), or any suitable combination thereof. An EM radiation concentrator may be used to increase the rate at which the EM radiation is absorbed by the complex.

[0067] In one or more embodiments of the invention, a vessel (e.g., vessel 1 1424) holds the feedstock solution and facilitates the transfer of energy (e.g., heat) to the feedstock solution to extract sugars present in the polysaccharides of the feedstock solution. A vessel may be designed and configured to operate under a pressure.

[0068] A vessel (e.g., vessel 1 1424), or a portion thereof, may include the complex. For example, a vessel may include a liquid solution (e.g., the feedstock, water, some other material, liquid or otherwise, such as ethylene glycol or glycine) that includes the complex, be coated on one or more inside surfaces with a coating of the complex, be coated on one or more outside surfaces with a coating of the complex, include a porous matrix into which the complex is embedded, include a packed column that includes packed, therein, a substrate on which the complex is attached, include rods or similar objects coated with the complex and submerged in the liquid solution, be constructed of a material that includes the complex, or any combination thereof. A vessel may also be adapted to facilitate one or more EM radiation concentrators (not shown), as described above.

[0069] A vessel may be of any size, material, shape, color, degree of translucence/transparency, or any other characteristic suitable for the operating temperatures and pressures to produce the amount and concentration of bioethanol. For example, a vessel may be a large, stainless steel cylindrical tank holding a quantity of solution that includes the complex and with a number of lenses (acting as EM radiation concentrators) along the lid and upper walls. In such a case, the solution may include the feedstock to be heated to extract the sugars from the feedstock and/or vaporize (distill) the bioethanol. Further, in such a case, the feedstock solution may include properties such that the complex remains in the solution when a filtering system (described below) is used. Alternatively, a chemical vessel may be a translucent pipe with the interior surfaces coated (either evenly or unevenly) with a substrate of the complex, where the pipe is positioned at the focal point of a parabolic trough (acting as an EM radiation concentrator) made of reflective metal.

[0070] Optionally, in one or more embodiments of the invention, a bioethanol extracting system 1420 may include one or more temperature gauges (not shown) to measure a temperature at different points inside a vessel and/or at other components of the bioethanol producing system 1400. For example, a temperature gauge may be placed at the point in a vessel where a vapor element exits the vessel (e.g., a vapor collector). Such temperature gauge may be operatively connected to a control system (not shown) used to control the amount and/or quality of vapor element produced in heating the feedstock solution. In one or more embodiments of the invention, a vessel may be pressurized where the pressure is read and/or controlled using a pressure gauge (not shown). Those skilled in the art will appreciate one or more control systems used to create heated fluid in heating the cool fluid may involve a number of devices, including but not limited to the temperature gauges, pressure gauges, pumps, agitators, fans, and valves, controlled (manually and/or automatically) according to a number of protocols and operating procedures. In one or more embodiments of the invention, the control system may be configured to maintain a maximum temperature (or range of temperatures) of a vessel so that the chemical mixture maintains (or does not exceed) a predetermined temperature.

[0071] Optionally, in one or more embodiments of the invention, one or more of the components of the bioethanol producing system 1400 may also include a filtering system (not shown). For example, a filtering system may be located inside a vessel and/or at some point before the chemical mixture enters the vessel. The filtering system may capture impurities (e.g., dirt and other solids) in the feedstock solution that may not be useful or that may inhibit the bioethanol production process. The filtering system may vary, depending on a number of factors, including but not limited to the configuration of the vessel, the configuration of the chemical mixture source, and the purity requirements of a vapor element. The filtering system may be integrated with a control system. For example, the filtering system may operate within a temperature range measured by one or more temperature gauges.

[0072] Optionally, in one or more embodiments of the invention, one or more pumps may be used in the bioethanol producing system 1400. A pump 1454 may be used to regulate the flow of the feedstock solution from the feedstock solution source 1452 into a vessel 1424 and/or the flow of the fluid element from a condenser (e.g., condenser 1 1440). A pump may operate manually or automatically (as with a control system, described above). Each pump may operate using a variable speed motor or a fixed speed motor. The flow of the feedstock solution, a vapor element from a vessel, and/or a fluid element from a condenser may also be controlled by gravity, a fan, pressure differential, some other suitable mechanism, or any combination thereof.

[0073] Optionally, in one or more embodiments of the invention, a storage tank of may be configured to store one or more fluid elements and/or vapor elements after the vapor element has been extracted from a vessel. In some embodiments of the invention, the storage tank may be a vessel or a vapor collector.

[0074] Optionally, in one or more embodiments of the invention, a supplemental water heater 1412 may be used in the bioethanol producing system 1400 to preheat the feedstock solution, or the solution used to make the feedstock solution.

[0075] FIG. 15 shows a flowchart for a method for producing bioethanol in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. While the various steps in this flowchart are presented and described sequentially, one of ordinary skill will appreciate that some or all of the steps may be executed in different orders, may be combined or omitted, and some or all of the steps may be executed in parallel. Further, in one or more of the embodiments of the invention, one or more of the steps described below may be omitted, repeated, and/or performed in a different order. In addition, a person of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that additional steps, omitted in FIG. 15, may be included in performing this method. Accordingly, the specific arrangement of steps shown in FIG. 15 should not be construed as limiting the scope of the invention.

[0076] One or more embodiments of the invention heat a feedstock solution to extract one or more sugars of the feedstock solution. The amount of feedstock solution that is heated by embodiments of the invention may range from a few ounces to thousands of gallons (or more) of feedstock solution.

[0077] Referring to FIG. 15, in Step 1502, EM radiation from an EM radiation source is concentrated and sent to the steam generating system. In Step 1504, the EM radiation irradiates a complex. The complex absorbs the EM radiation and generates heat. The heat is then used to heat a feedstock solution in Step 1506. The feedstock solution may have impurities (e.g., other elements and/or compounds) that are not needed or wanted when the fluid is in vapor form. The vessel containing the fluid may be any container capable of holding a volume of the fluid. For example, the vessel may be a pipe, a chamber, or some other suitable container. In one or more embodiments of the invention, the vessel is adapted to maintain its characteristics (e.g., form, properties) under high temperatures and pressures for extended periods of time. The complex may be part of a solution inside the vessel, a coating on the outside of the vessel, a coating on the inside of the vessel, integrated as part of the material of which the vessel is made, integrated with the vessel in some other way, or any suitable combination thereof. The fluid may be received in the vessel using a pump, a valve, a regulator, some other device to control the flow of the fluid, or any suitable combination thereof.

[0078] In one or more embodiments of the invention, the EM radiation is concentrated using an EM radiation concentrator, as described above with respect to FIG. 14. For example, the EM radiation may be concentrated using a lens or a parabolic trough. In one or more embodiments of the invention, the EM radiation is concentrated merely by exposing the vessel to the EM radiation.

[0079] In one or more embodiments of the invention, the complex absorbs the EM radiation to generate heat. The EM radiation may be applied to all or a portion of the complex located in the vessel. The EM radiation may also be applied to an intermediary, which in turn applies the EM radiation (either directly or indirectly, as through convection) to the complex. A control system using, for example, one or more temperature gauges, may regulate the amount of EM radiation applied to the complex, thus controlling the amount of heat generated by the complex at a given point in time. Power required for any component in the control system may be supplied by any of a number of external sources (e.g., a battery, a photovoltaic solar array, alternating current power, direct current power).

[0080] In Step 1508, sugar molecules are extracted from polysaccharides in the feedstock solution. In one or more embodiments of the invention, the heat generated by the complex is used to heat the feedstock solution to extract the sugars. In Step 1510, the sugar molecules extracted from the feedstock solution are fermented. The sugar molecules may be fermented using known techniques, for example through the addition of saccharomyces cerevisiae, a yeast. In Step 1512, the bioethanol is extracted. In one or more embodiments of the invention, the bioethanol may be extracted using the techniques described in PCT Application No. US2011/062497. After completing Step 1510, the process may end.

[0081] Consider the following example, shown in FIG. 16, which describes a system that produces steam used to heat the feedstock solution in accordance with one or more embodiments described above. This example is not intended to limit the scope of the invention. Turning to the example, the EM radiation source 1614 irradiates the complex 1604 through the use of the concentrator 1610 as part of the complex based bioethanol extracting system 1620. In this specific embodiment, the concentrator 1610 is parabolic mirror concentrating the EM radiation from the EM radiation source 1614 to a vessel containing the complex 1604. The complex based bioethanol extracting system 1620 may be used to supply steam to the chamber 1636. The chamber 1636 may include a temperature sensor 1632, a pressure sensor 1634, and a safety valve 1660. The chamber may also optionally include a heater 1612.

[0082] In one or more embodiments of the invention, steam is generated in the complex based bioethanol extracting system 1620. One of ordinary skill will appreciate that the chamber 1636 may include valves to isolate the chamber 1636 from the rest of the apparatus for the insertion or removal of the feedstock in the chamber 1636. At the conclusion of a cycle, a pump 1654 may be used to recycle the fluid for the next cycle. Alternatively, the pump 1654 may be used during the cycle to maintain the appropriate temperature and pressure necessary for heating the feedstock.

[0083] FIG. 17 illustrates an alternative configuration of the complex based bioethanol extracting system in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. The system shown in FIG. 17 includes a chamber 1736 with a temperature sensor 1732, a pressure sensor 1734, a supply valve 1770, and a safety valve 1760. The supply valve 1770 may be used to supply or maintain the supply of fluid in the chamber 1736. The complex 1704 may be disposed inside the chamber 1736, with the complex being accessible to EM radiation 1714, via the concentrator 1710. In one or more embodiments of the invention, the concentrator may be a lens or transparent material capable of handling the temperatures and pressures necessary to extract the sugar molecules from the feedstock within the chamber 1736. One or more embodiments of the invention may include an optical system 1780 designed to direct the EM radiation 1714 to the complex 1704, depending on the relative position of the EM radiation source. In one or more embodiments of the invention, such as that shown in FIG 17, the system may be self-contained and portable. [0084] FIG. 18 illustrates a system for bioethanol extraction from feedstock in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. The system 1800 includes an EM radiation source 1814 that applies the radiation, via a concentrator 1810, to a complex 1804 located within the chamber 1836. The closed loop system 1800 may include one or more temperature sensors 1832, pressure sensors 1834, and safety valves 1860. The safety valves 1860 may open or close a loop containing a condenser 1840. During operation, feedstock, or feedstock solution, may be disposed inside the chamber 1836, at a position so as not to impede the EM radiation from the EM radiation source 1814 reaching the complex 1804. The EM radiation from the EM radiation source 1814 is absorbed by complex 1804. As a result of the irradiation, the complex 1804 generates heat in the chamber 1836 and, thus, increases the temperature of the fluid in the chamber 1836 and pressure in the chamber 1836. The fluid is converted to steam and may be applied to the feedstock to extract the sugar molecules and/or distill the bioethanol produced.

[0085] FIGs. 19A-19B illustrate the temperature and pressure that may be achieved in accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention. In FIG. 19 A, the complex is a gold branched structure as described above in relation to FIGs. 8—11. The EM radiation source is the sun. In FIG. 19A, the safety relief valve begins to vent to the atmosphere when the solution inside the chamber reaches ~170°C and the pressure reaches - 110 psi. In FIG. 19A, the temperature of the solution 1901 as a function of time indicates that the system may safely reach autoclave conditions. FIG 19A also includes the temperature as a function of time before 1903 and after 1905 the condenser 1840. FIG. 19B is the pressure 1907 inside the chamber 1836 as a function of time. The irregularity of the pressure and temperature curves shown in FIGs. 19A and 19B are a result of clouds momentarily obstructing the sunlight which reduce the boiling intensity at different moments. [0086] Embodiments of the claimed invention produce bioethanol from lignocellulosic biomass to generate fuel. The cell walls of grass contain cellulose and hemicellulose. These polysaccharides are degraded into smaller units in accordance with embodiments of the invention, which are accessible to yeast to perform fermentation.

[0087] Cellulose consists of D-Glucose units linked via a β-1,4 glycosidic bond.

Hemicellulose contains Xylose, Mannose, Glucose and Galactose units. Glucose and Galactose are sugars which can be fermented by unmodified Saccharomyces cerevisiae, so their amount may be maximized in the pretreatment hydrolyzate.

[0088] The theoretically available amount of sugar in the feedstock may be deduced from a quantity of cellulose and hemicellulose. The amounts of hemicellulose and cellulose as well as other sugars available in feedstock are known. The amount of Glucose and Galactose available in Coastal hay may exceed the corresponding value for Alfalfa hay, which means Coastal may provide a more promising feedstock.

[0089] A pretreatment with pressurized hot water may be used to liberate sugars from polysaccharides. Referring to FIG. 20, several experiments with different temperatures and pretreatment times have been performed with a 5% w/v solid loading on a dry matter basis in accordance with embodiments of the invention. A Parr Instruments Model 4621 pressure vessel equipped with an electrical heating unit was used to determine the values in FIG. 20. The loaded vessel was heated to a certain temperature, which was kept constant for a defined time period. Thereafter the pressure was released whereby the temperature of the contents dropped rapidly. The sugar analysis of the pretreatment samples shown in FIG. 20 was carried out with a HPLC system.

[0090] In accordance with one or more embodiments of the invention, the temperature and pressure ranges shown in FIG. 19 may be used to liberate the sugars in a feedstock solution, as demonstrated in FIG. 20. In one or more embodiments of the invention, complex based distillation may be used to in the extraction of bioethanol.

[0091] In one or more embodiments of the invention, the complex based bioethanol production system may be a solar, portable system. For example, the complex based bioethanol production system may be used in the fields that provide the feedstock.

[0092] Embodiments of the invention may provide for bioethanol production without the use of caustic chemicals to break down plant cell walls, or the use of enzymes for that purpose. Embodiments may also provide for more economical production of bioethanol. Embodiments of the invention may provide an alternative to fossil-derived fuels.



US2013334104
DISTILLING A CHEMICAL MIXTURE USING AN ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION-ABSORBING COMPLEX FOR HEATING
A method of distilling a chemical mixture, the method including receiving, in a vessel comprising a complex, the chemical mixture comprising a plurality of fluid elements, applying electromagnetic (EM) radiation to the complex, wherein the complex absorbs the EM radiation to generate heat at a first temperature, transforming, using the heat generated by the complex, a first fluid element of the plurality of fluid elements of the chemical mixture to a first vapor element, and extracting the first vapor element from the vessel, where the complex is at least one selected from a group consisting of copper nanoparticles, copper oxide nanoparticles, nanoshells, nanorods, carbon moieties, encapsulated nanoshells, encapsulated nanoparticles, and branched nanostructures.

US2013306463
PURIFYING A FLUID USING A HEAT CARRIER COMPRISING AN ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION-ABSORBING COMPLEX
In general, the invention relates to a system. The system includes a heating fluid vessel (1604) that includes first fluid and a complex, where the complex receives electromagnetic (EM) radiation (1602), and where the complex absorbs the EM radiation to generate heat and where the heat increases a temperature of the first fluid to generate a first heated fluid (1606). The system further includes a heat exchanger (1608) adapted to receive the first heated fluid (1606) and complex in a first chamber, receive a mixture including a second fluid in a second chamber, and transfer the heat from the first fluid from the complex to the mixture to transform at least a portion of the target fluid of the mixture to a target vapor. The system further includes a condenser (1632) adapted to receive the target vapor, and condense the target vapor to generate target fluid (1636).

US2012267893
ELECTRICITY GENERATION USING ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION
In general, in one aspect, the invention relates to a system to create vapor for generating electric power. The system includes a vessel comprising a fluid and a complex and a turbine. The vessel of the system is configured to concentrate EM radiation received from an EM radiation source. The vessel of the system is further configured to apply the EM radiation to the complex, where the complex absorbs the EM radiation to generate heat. The vessel of the system is also configured to transform, using the heat generated by the complex, the fluid to vapor. The vessel of the system is further configured to sending the vapor to a turbine. The turbine of the system is configured to receive, from the vessel, the vapor used to generate the electric power.

US2012156102
WASTE REMEDIATION
A system including a steam generation system and a chamber. The steam generation system includes a complex and the steam generation system is configured to receive water, concentrate electromagnetic (EM) radiation received from an EM radiation source, apply the EM radiation to the complex, where the complex absorbs the EM radiation to generate heat, and transform, using the heat generated by the complex, the water to steam. The chamber is configured to receive the steam and an object, wherein the object is of medical waste, medical equipment, fabric, and fecal matter.

US2012155841
GENERATING A HEATED FLUID USING AN ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION-ABSORBING COMPLEX
A vessel including a concentrator configured to concentrate electromagnetic (EM) radiation received from an EM radiation source and a complex configured to absorb EM radiation to generate heat. The vessel is configured to receive a cool fluid from the cool fluid source, concentrate the EM radiation using the concentrator, apply the EM radiation to the complex, and transform, using the heat generated by the complex, the cool fluid to the heated fluid. The complex is at least one of consisting of copper nanoparticles, copper oxide nanoparticles, nanoshells, nanorods, carbon moieties, encapsulated nanoshells, encapsulated nanoparticles, and branched nanostructures. Further, the EM radiation is at least one of EM radiation in an ultraviolet region of an electromagnetic spectrum, in a visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum, and in an infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum.

US9032731
COOLING SYSTEMS AND HYBRID A/C SYSTEMS USING AN ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION-ABSORBING COMPLEX
A method for powering a cooling unit. The method including applying electromagnetic (EM) radiation to a complex, where the complex absorbs the EM radiation to generate heat, transforming, using the heat generated by the complex, a fluid to vapor, and sending the vapor from the vessel to a turbine coupled to a generator by a shaft, where the vapor causes the turbine to rotate, which turns the shaft and causes the generator to generate the electric power, wherein the electric powers supplements the power needed to power the cooling unit.

US7790066
Nanorice particles: hybrid plasmonic nanostructures
A new hybrid nanoparticle, i.e., a nanorice particle, which combines the intense local fields of nanorods with the highly tunable plasmon resonances of nanoshells, is described herein. This geometry possesses far greater structural tunability than previous nanoparticle geometries, along with much larger local field enhancements and far greater sensitivity as a surface plasmon resonance (SPR) nanosensor than presently known dielectric-conductive material nanostructures. In an embodiment, a nanoparticle comprises a prolate spheroid-shaped core having a first aspect ratio. The nanoparticle also comprises at least one conductive shell surrounding said prolate spheroid-shaped core. The nanoparticle has a surface plasmon resonance sensitivity of at least 600 nm RIU-1. Methods of making the disclosed nanorice particles are also described herei





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