Engineers have used graphene to create a thin film for thermal energy harvesting.

The highly-efficient, solar-absorbing film takes in sunlight with minimal heat loss and rapidly heats up to 83°C.

Its designers say it could be used in a range of futuristic applications, such as turning sunlight directly into heat for thermophotovoltaic energy, or for desalination and water purification.

The research team has achieved an impressive 96.2 per cent solar-to-vapour efficiency rating, which makes it very competitive for clean water generation using renewable energy.

“In our previous work, we demonstrated a 90 nm graphene metamaterial heat-absorbing film,” says Professor Baohua Jia from Swinburne University.

“In this new work, we reduced the film thickness to 30 nm and improved the performance by minimising heat loss. This work forms an exciting pillar in our atomaterial research.”

“In addition to the long lifetime of the proposed graphene metamaterial, the solar-thermal performance is very stable under working conditions, making it attractive for industrial use,” says fellow researcher Dr Han Lin.

“The 30 nm thickness significantly reduced the amount of the graphene materials, thus saving the costs, making it accessible for real-life applications.”

A paper on the new technology is accessible here.