Perspective | Published:

New avenues for the large-scale harvesting of blue energy

Nature Reviews Chemistry volume 1, Article number: 0091 (2017) | Download Citation

Abstract

Salinity gradients have been identified as promising clean, renewable and non-intermittent sources of energy — so-called blue energy. However, the low efficiency of current harvesting technologies is a major limitation for large-scale viability and is mostly due to the low performances of the membrane processes currently in use. Advances in materials fabrication with dedicated chemical properties can resolve this bottleneck and lead to a new class of membranes for blue-energy conversion. In this Perspective, we briefly present current technologies for the conversion of blue energy, describe their performances and note their limitations. We then discuss new avenues for the development of a new class of membranes, combining considerations in nanoscale fluid dynamics and surface chemistry. Finally, we discuss how new functionalities originating from the exotic behaviour of fluids in the nanoscale regime can further boost energy conversion, making osmotic energy a tangible, clean alternative.

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Acknowledgements

A.S. acknowledges funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Framework Programme/European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant agreement number 637748 — NanoSOFT. L.B. acknowledges support from the European Union's FP7 Framework Programme/ERC Advanced Grant Micromegas and funding from a Paris Sciences et Lettres (PSL) chair of excellence. All authors acknowledge funding from the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) project BlueEnergy.

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Affiliations

  1. Laboratoire de Physique Statistique–Paris Sciences et Lettres (PSL) Research University, École Normale Supérieure, Unités Mixtes de Recherche (UMR) Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) 8550, 24 rue Lhomond, 75005 Paris, France.

    • Alessandro Siria
    •  & Lydéric Bocquet
  2. École Normale Supérieure–Paris Sciences et Lettres (PSL) Research University, Département de Chimie, Sorbonne Universités–University Pierre and Marie CURIE (UPMC), Paris 06, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) Unités Mixtes de Recherche (UMR) 8640 PASTEUR, 24 rue Lhomond, 75005 Paris, France.

    • Marie-Laure Bocquet

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Contributions

All authors contributed equally to the preparation of this manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Alessandro Siria or Marie-Laure Bocquet or Lydéric Bocquet.

Glossary

Bjerrum length

The distance at which the magnitude of the electrostatic interaction between two charged particles is comparable to their thermal energy.

Plug-like profile

The velocity profile of a fluid flowing in a pipe under interfacially driven flows (for example, electro-osmosis or diffusio-osmosis). A plug flow is characterized by a constant flux velocity across any cross section of the pipe perpendicular to the direction of the flow, except within the first few nanometres from the surface.

Shockley diode

A semiconductor device based on several layers of p-doped and n-doped regions. In the original realization, the diode is a p–n diode.

Zeta potential

The electric potential at the interfacial double layer, usually defined at the location of the slipping plane (typically within a molecular distance from the bare surface). The zeta potential is measured by electro-osmotic or streaming current measurements.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41570-017-0091

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