Solar evaporation is a promising desalination technology, and enhancing desalination performance is the key to promoting the application of solar evaporation. In this study, a new type of solar evaporator was prepared using the polyetherimide (PEI) modified cation exchange resin (CER) and poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT)-based conductive ink (EL-P 3040). The prepared evaporator showed excellent light-to-heat conversion capability and significantly improved the evaporation performance with the evaporation rate of 1.42 kg m −2 h −1 . In addition, the removal rates of salt and heavy metal ions were all higher than 99.9%. Salt crystallization during evaporation was suppressed based on the restriction of the cation exchange resin on the free ions transport. The goal of this research is to provide a meaningful reference for promoting the practical application of solar desalination. • Cation exchange resin in the photothermal composite layer was used for the first time. • Modified cation exchange resin constructed a selective channel to supply water to evaporation interface. • The removal rates of salt ions and heavy metal ions were higher than 99.9%. • Cation exchange resin restricted the free movement of ions and inhibited salt crystallization.

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