In "Optofluidics for solar energy," Demetri Psaltis describes how microfluidics and optics offer promising possibilities for solar applications in efficient green energy as well as water purification and other applications. He says the technique -- inspired by nature -- demonstrates how "a small system can help shrink a large carbon footprint."
In this presentation, Psaltis discusses how optofluidic solar fuel systems that rely on microstructured components with dual, optical and fluidic functionality can improve the fuel generation efficiency.
Optofluidics refers to a class of devices and techniques that combine optics and fluidics. Biophotonics has been a major application of optofluidics partially because in biology we normally use light to make measurements of entities suspended in liquids. Therefore biophotonics naturally combines fluids and optics. The same thing is true in the field of solar fuels where generally chemicals in liquid form are exposed to sunlight which catalyzes or thermally accelerates a chemical reaction that generated useful fuels. The design of a solar fuel system requires the simultaneous optimization of the optical and fluidic properties of the system.
Demetri Psaltis is professor and director of the Optics Laboratory and dean of the School of Engineering at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland).