VIDEO: Virus helps boil water 3x faster - Could be used in nuclear power stations and electronic cooling systems

03/27/2015 - 00:00

Legions of viruses that infect the leaves of tobacco plants could be the key to making power plants safer, heating and cooling of buildings more efficient, and electronics more powerful. These tiny protein bundles, which were once a threat to a staple cash crop of the nascent United States in the 1800s, are now helping researchers like Drexel University’s Matthew McCarthy, PhD, better understand and enhance the processes of boiling and condensation.

McCarthy’s research focuses on phase-change heat transfer—the boiling, evaporation and condensation of fluids. These processes, which are ubiquitous in nature, have also become integral to the technologies that keep our society running. Steam turbines generate electricity in massive plants that power cities. Boiling water is a time-tested purification method that is still used to treat water supplies. And both heating and cooling processes are part of the systems that control our indoor climates on a daily basis. If McCarthy’s work can make phase-change heat transfer even a little more efficient its impact could be huge.