Boosting Solar Steam Generation by Using AIE Photothermal Molecule-Doped 3D Nanofibrous Aerogel with Self-Pumping Water Function

Utilizing solar energy to generate clean water by interface solar steam generation is considered to be a promising strategy to address the challenge of water shortage globally. However, high evaporation rate and long-term sustainability have rarely been achieved simultaneously, due to salt accumulation, discontinuous water supply and insufficient photothermal conversion. Herein, we demonstrate that a three-dimensional nanofibrous aerogel (3D NA) with Janus layers enables floating on the surface water by hydrophobic layer and continues pumping water by hydrophilic layer and interconnected porous structure. More notably, an aggregation-induced emission (AIE) photothermal molecule is doped into nanofibers for the first time, which was endowed with superior capacity of transferring solar energy into heat. Combining these unique benefits, the presented 3D NA exhibits extremely high evaporation rate (1.99 kg m-2 h-1) and solar-to-vapor conversion efficiency (89%) under irradiation of 1 sun. Besides, there is no significant change in evaporation performance after 21 cycles in the case of seawater treatment, suggesting that the designed 3D NA possess sustainable stability and self-cleaning function to restrain salt deposition. With highly efficient evaporation rate and long-term sustainable solar steam generation, such 3D NA can offer new strategy for desalination and sewage treatment.