One relatively simple subset of nanotechnology is nanofluids, obtained by the addition of nanoparticles to a conventional base fluid. The promise of nanofluids stems from the fact that at relatively small particle loading (typically <1% by volume) significant enhancement in thermal transport may be possible [1–3]. Since there are a wide variety of nanoparticle materials to choose from, nanofluidic systems can be tuned to fit a number of applications. This research focuses on direct thermal collection of light energy using highly absorptive nanofluids. Experimental tests are conducted using a 0.1% by volume graphite/water (30nm nominal particle diameter) nanofluid exposed to a 130 mW, 532 nm, continuous laser. A lens is placed between the laser and the fluid to achieve a high-energy flux (∼ 490 Wcm−2). Since initially over 99.9% of the light is absorbed in a path length of 0.1 mm, the irradiated portion of the base fluid collects enough energy to vaporize. Heuristic methods of analysis demonstrate this situation incorporates several interesting modes of heat transfer and fluid mechanics. These experiments also reveal the possibility for novel solar collectors in which the working fluid directly absorbs energy and undergoes phase change in a single step.

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