Researchers at McGill University have demonstrated a technique that could enable the production of robust, high-performance membranes to harness an abundant source of renewable energy.
Blue energy, also known as osmotic energy, capitalizes on the energy naturally released when two solutions of different salinities mix—conditions that occur in countless locations around the world where fresh and salt water meet.
The key to capturing blue energy lies in selectively permeable membranes, which allow only one constituent of a saltwater solution to pass through—either the water molecules or the dissolved salt ions—but not the other.
To date, large-scale blue energy projects such as Norway's Statkraft power plant have been impeded by the poor efficiency of existing membrane technology. In the laboratory, researchers have developed membranes from exotic nanomaterials that have shown great promise in terms of the amount of power they can generate relative to their size. But it remains a challenge to turn these vanishingly thin materials into components that are large enough and strong enough to meet the demands of real-world applications.
In results recently published in Nano Letters, a team of McGill physicists has demonstrated a technique that may open the way to overcoming this challenge.
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