Battery Energy May Be Generated through Water

October 21, 2003 by Jeff Shepard

Research published in the Institute of Physics journal, Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, reveals a new method of generating electric power by harnessing the natural electro-kinetic properties of a liquid such as ordinary tap water when it is pumped through tiny microchannels. The research team claims that they have created a new source of clean, non-polluting, electric power with a variety of possible uses, ranging from powering small electronic devices to contributing to a national power grid.

Professor Larry Kostiuk of the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, stated, "This discovery has a huge number of possible applications. It's possible that it could be a new alternative energy source to rival wind and solar power, but this would need huge bodies of water to work on a commercial scale. Hydrocarbon fuels are still the best source of energy, but they're fast running out and so new options like this one could be vital in the future."

The key to electrical power generation is to create a sustainable electrical charge separation. The physical phenomenon involved in the research is the charge separation that occurs at solid-liquid interfaces due to the dissociation of the solid. As a result, the surface becomes charged and opposite-charged ions in the liquid are attracted to it, while like-charged ions are repelled, resulting in a thin liquid layer with a net charge. This region, known as the Electric Double Layer, ranges from several nanometers to a few micrometers thick, but is the primary mechanism for charge separation.