(Nanowerk News) Nuclear and coal power plants are some of the thirstiest machines on earth. The turbines that spin inside of them to generate electricity require tons and tons of steam, and all of that water has to come from somewhere.
Recent studies have estimated that roughly two-fifths of the nation's freshwater withdrawals and three percent of overall freshwater consumption goes to supplying the steam generators at large power stations in the United States. In order to cut down on the enormous quantities of water required to operate these plants, scientists have begun to look for new technologies that could improve their efficiency and reduce the demand for water.
As part of a larger consortium involving partners from several energy companies, universities, and government agencies, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory are developing a special class of nanoparticles that partially melt as steam evaporates from a plant's cooling towers, absorbing a significant percentage of the diffused heat in the system.