Penn State researchers have created a new carbon-neutral technology that combines the most effective methods of capturing energy.
The energy is created from the differences in salt concentrations in water. This new process has generated vast amounts of electrical power in areas where the fresh and salt water meet.
How does this new carbon technology work?
The most effective means of extracting the energy from salt concentration differentials used to be PRO (pressure retarded osmosis). This method selectively lets water through a semi-permeable membrane while leaving the salt out. Therefore, it creates osmotic pressure, and it is able to move turbines, which creates energy.
However, the membranes clog up making the system less efficient with salty water. The RED (reverse electrodialysis) solves this problem by transporting the salt contents through the membranes, rather than the water. This only generates minimal power, and that is why the researchers have created an electrochemical flow cell that combines both RED and Capacitive mixing (CapMix) technologies.
CapMix is relatively new and it draws energy from the voltage that is created when two electrodes are in water where salt concentration changes. The power is minimal on its own, but when you combine it with the RED technology you will be able to get a level of energy production density that is even higher than PRO.
What does this mean for the energy crisis?
According to the researchers, they can create energy that can meet up to 40 percent of the world’s electricity needs by harnessing the difference in salt concentration. This has the ability to eliminate most of the United States’ reliance on fossil fuels, because a recent survey showed that solar roofs provide 25 percent of the energy used in the US.
According to Futurism, researchers have come to the conclusion that the U.S. could generate 1,118 GW of power from rooftop solar installations. Therefore, as the technology that is used to harness solar power becomes cheaper, it will be better to shift from fossil fuels to clean energy alternatives. It will be cheaper for us, and better for the environment too.
Room for improvement
If this technology is as successful as the research suggests, then countries would only have to get to the technology if they can afford it. However, the researchers are working on making this carbon-neutral technology affordable and accessible to all.
There is still work to be done with this project, and the researchers are still working on the stability of the electrodes over time. Additionally, they need to figure out how elements such as magnesium impact the cell.
Estuaries (where ocean and fresh water collide) have been an area of interest for scientists for years. According to the National Ocean Service, estuaries are the most productive ecosystems in the world, and many animals rely on them in order to survive.
Moreover, these powerful currents have the potential to take us away from dangerous fossil fuels because of the carbon-neutral technology. It is also an example of how recent technology can protect our environment, and our valuable resources.