Composite Polyelectrolyte Photothermal Hydrogel with Anti-biofouling and Antibacterial Properties for the Real-World Application of Solar Steam Generation

Bolun Peng, Quanqian Lyu, Yujie Gao, Miaomiao Li, Ge Xie, Zhanjun Xie, Hanchao Zhang, Jingli Ren, Jintao Zhu, Lianbin Zhang, Peng Wang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Solar steam generation provides a promising and low-cost solution for freshwater production in energy scarcity areas. However, in real-world applications, evaporators are easily affected by microorganism contamination in source water, causing surface corrosion, structural damage, or even invalidation. Developing anti-biofouling and antibacterial evaporators is significant for long-term stable freshwater production. Herein, a composite polyelectrolyte photothermal hydrogel consisting of sulfobetaine methacrylate (SBMA), [2-(methacryloyloxy)ethyl]trimethylammonium chloride (METAC), and polypyrrole (PPy) with anti-biofouling and antibacterial properties is developed. Crediting sufficient ammonium groups and zwitterionic segments, the optimized polyelectrolyte hydrogel exhibits an ∼90% antibacterial ratio against Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) and Escherichia coli (E. coli) and effectively controls biological contamination. Under 1.0 kW m-2solar irradiation, a rapid water evaporation rate of ∼1.690 kg m-2h-1and a high solar-to-evaporation efficiency of ∼95.94% are achieved with the photothermal hydrogel. We show that a lab-made setup integrated with the hydrogel can realize ∼0.455 kg m-2h-1freshwater production from seawater under natural sunlight. Moreover, the hydrogel exhibits excellent durability with a stable evaporation rate of ∼1.617 kg m-2h-1in real seawater for over 6 weeks, making it fullhearted in the real-world application of solar steam generation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16546-16557
Number of pages12
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2022


  • anti-biofouling
  • antibacterial
  • photothermal
  • polyelectrolyte hydrogel
  • solar steam generation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)

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