Studies on carbon nanotubes (CNT), Au, and Ag solar enabled steam generation with potential application in water purification, distillation, and sterilization of medical equipment are ongoing. The key challenge with these nanoparticles is the cost of production hence limiting its full application for clean water production. This work for the first time reports on activated carbon enabled steam generation hence addressing the cost limitations of metallic nanoparticles. Activated carbon has high solar absorptivity at various wavelengths of visible light under low concentration. Experiments were carried out using activated carbon and CNT nanofluids and polyurethane (PU) membrane with immobilized activated carbon and CNT. A simulated solar light of 1 kW ∼1 sun was used. The rate of evaporation, temporal and spatial evolution of bulk temperature in the water were monitored automatically and recorded for further data reductions. Parametric studies of the effect of nanoparticle concentration, water quality, and salinity were performed. Experimental evidence showed that activated carbon has potential in water purification. We reported for the first time that optimal activated carbon concentration for maximum steam generation is 60 vol %. We also obtained a 160% increase in steam production rate at 60% concentration of activated carbon when compared with de-ionized water.