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Estuaries Could Provide 13% Of The World’s Power Needs

Posted By Timon Singh On March 30, 2011 @ 11:45 am In Green Products,Renewable Energy | 1 Comment

entropy, osmosis, osmotic power, renewable energy, salt, seawater, Stanford University [1]

A team of researchers from Stanford University [2] recently announced that estuaries around the globe could provide 13% of the world’s energy needs. For those of you who skipped geography, an estuary is where a river meets the sea, and the team believes that these areas where fresh water and salt water converge could be tapped as a renewable energy goldmine. Whenever river water diffuses into salty seawater there is a slight rise in temperature – this energy could theoretically be captured and harnessed to create electricity.

entropy, osmosis, osmotic power, renewable energy, salt, seawater, Stanford UniversityPhoto © Sids1 [3]

The researchers are working on a system for generating energy from moving water that does not involve ecosystem-damaging hydroelectric dams. Instead, the process hinges upon the principle of entropy [4], wherein energy is created from the mixture of salt and fresh water.
Traditional systems utilize osmotic power, where salt water draws fresh water through a membrane, causing an increase in pressure. This pressure then turns a turbine to produce electricity — but the Stanford team is working on a new method.

As reported by the Royal Society of Chemists [5], the Stanford team has developed a system that uses a battery to draw energy through a crystal lattice made of manganese dioxide nanorods. This enables a large surface area to be packed into a small space, creating the potential to generate large amounts of energy.

The system would also enable salt to be gathered so it can be converted into molten salt [6], which we all know can be used in power plants, wastewater treatment, energy generation and hydrogen gas production.

Granted the system is still in its infancy and the 13% figure that is bandied around should be taken with a pinch of salt (sorry!), but it is an interesting idea.

+ Stanford University [7]

Via Clean Technica [8]

Lead photo by Wikimedia Commons [9]


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URL to article: http://inhabitat.com/estuaries-could-provide-13-of-the-worlds-power-needs/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://inhabitat.com/estuaries-could-provide-13-of-the-worlds-power-needs/estuary-ed01/

[2] researchers from Stanford University: http://inhabitat.com/stanford-harnesses-light-and-heat-with-new-solar-tech

[3] Sids1: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sids1/

[4] principle of entropy: http://inhabitat.comen.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entropy

[5] Royal Society of Chemists: http://www.rsc.org/

[6] molten salt: http://inhabitat.com/energy-breakthrough-storing-solar-power-with-salt

[7] + Stanford University: http://www.stanford.edu/

[8] Clean Technica: http://cleantechnica.com/2011/03/28/where-river-meets-sea-salt-makes-renewable-energy-happen/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+IM-cleantechnica+%28CleanTechnica%29

[9] Wikimedia Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Estuary_mouth.jpg

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