Most of the world’s electricity-producing power plants — whether powered by coal, natural gas or nuclear fission — make electricity by generating steam that turns a turbine. That steam then is condensed back to water, and the cycle begins again. But, the condensers that collect the steam are quite inefficient, and improving them could make a big difference in overall power plant efficiency.
A team of researchers at MIT has developed a way of coating these condenser surfaces with a layer of graphene — just one atom thick — and found that this can improve the rate of heat transfer by a factor of four. (Even better heat transfer gains may be possible with further work.) And unlike polymer coatings, the graphene coatings have proven to be highly durable in laboratory tests. The findings are reported in the journalNano Letters by MIT graduate student Daniel Preston, professors Evelyn Wang and Jing Kong, and two others.