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Chemistry at the nexus of water and energy

Our ability to harness reactions that absorb or release energy is often contingent on water as a mediator. We can appreciate this simply by considering the steam that drives our electricity-generating turbines, the rivers that flow through our hydroelectric plants, and the freshwater–saltwater interface from which we can harvest blue energy. Whether we split water (as plants do), make it (as a product of combustion) or just drink it, this compound is inexorably tied to energy. Chemistry is at the heart of these topics and this collection brings together content from across Nature Research that focuses on the chemistry of energy production and water treatment.


  • Nature Reviews Materials | Review Article

    Membranes have an increasingly important role in alleviating water scarcity and the pollution of aquatic environments. Promising molecular-level design approaches are reviewed for membrane materials, focusing on how these materials address the urgent requirements of water treatment applications.

    • Jay R. Werber
    • , Chinedum O. Osuji
    •  &  Menachem Elimelech
  • Nature | Letter

    Cations are used to control the interlayer spacing of graphene oxide membranes, enabling efficient and selective sieving of hydrated cations.

    • Liang Chen
    • , Guosheng Shi
    • , Jie Shen
    • , Bingquan Peng
    • , Bowu Zhang
    • , Yuzhu Wang
    • , Fenggang Bian
    • , Jiajun Wang
    • , Deyuan Li
    • , Zhe Qian
    • , Gang Xu
    • , Gongping Liu
    • , Jianrong Zeng
    • , Lijuan Zhang
    • , Yizhou Yang
    • , Guoquan Zhou
    • , Minghong Wu
    • , Wanqin Jin
    • , Jingye Li
    •  &  Haiping Fang
  • Nature Nanotechnology | Article

    Few-layered, vertically aligned MoS2 films can efficiently harvest visible light for photocatalytic water disinfection, allowing >99.999% bacteria to be rapidly inactivated.

    • Chong Liu
    • , Desheng Kong
    • , Po-Chun Hsu
    • , Hongtao Yuan
    • , Hyun-Wook Lee
    • , Yayuan Liu
    • , Haotian Wang
    • , Shuang Wang
    • , Kai Yan
    • , Dingchang Lin
    • , Peter A. Maraccini
    • , Kimberly M. Parker
    • , Alexandria B. Boehm
    •  &  Yi Cui
  • Nature Nanotechnology | Letter

    Ion permeation and selectivity of graphene oxide membranes with sub-nm channels dramatically alters with the change in interlayer distance due to dehydration effects whereas permeation of water molecules remains largely unaffected.

    • Jijo Abraham
    • , Kalangi S. Vasu
    • , Christopher D. Williams
    • , Kalon Gopinadhan
    • , Yang Su
    • , Christie T. Cherian
    • , James Dix
    • , Eric Prestat
    • , Sarah J. Haigh
    • , Irina V. Grigorieva
    • , Paola Carbone
    • , Andre K. Geim
    •  &  Rahul R. Nair
  • Nature Nanotechnology | Article

    Scalable graphene-based membranes reject more than 80% NaCl under aggressive shear for more than 20 h and exhibit chlorine resistance.

    • Aaron Morelos-Gomez
    • , Rodolfo Cruz-Silva
    • , Hiroyuki Muramatsu
    • , Josue Ortiz-Medina
    • , Takumi Araki
    • , Tomoyuki Fukuyo
    • , Syogo Tejima
    • , Kenji Takeuchi
    • , Takuya Hayashi
    • , Mauricio Terrones
    •  &  Morinobu Endo

Water–energy intersection

  • Nature News | Comment

    Zhong Lin Wang proposes a radically different way to harvest renewable energy from the ocean using nanogenerator networks.

    • Zhong Lin Wang
  • Nature | Comment

    Markku Kulmala calls for continuous, comprehensive monitoring of interactions between the planet’s surface and atmosphere.

    • Markku Kulmala
  • Nature Reviews Chemistry | Review Article

    The electrochemical oxidation and reduction of water and carbon dioxide are associated with the release or storage of energy. This Review reports the latest developments in the design and use of low-dimensional materials and their van der Waals heterostructures for electrocatalytic and photocatalytic hydrogen evolution and CO2 conversion.

    • Damien Voiry
    • , Hyeon Suk Shin
    • , Kian Ping Loh
    •  &  Manish Chhowalla
  • Nature Reviews Chemistry | Perspective

    Blue energy can be cleanly and renewably harvested from a salinity gradient. The large-scale viability of this non-intermittent source is restricted by certain challenges, including the inefficiency of present harvesting technologies. This Perspective describes how nanofluidics can afford membranes better able to convert chemical potentials to electrical potentials.

    • Alessandro Siria
    • , Marie-Laure Bocquet
    •  &  Lydéric Bocquet
  • Nature Reviews Materials | Review Article

    More than twenty 2D carbides, nitrides and carbonitrides of transition metals (MXenes) have been synthesized and studied, and dozens more predicted to exist. Highly electrically conductive MXenes show promise in electrical energy storage, electromagnetic interference shielding, electrocatalysis, plasmonics and other applications.

    • Babak Anasori
    • , Maria R. Lukatskaya
    •  &  Yury Gogotsi
  • Nature Reviews Materials | Review Article

    Overall water splitting using powdered photocatalysts is a promising approach to large-scale solar hydrogen production. This Review details recent developments in particulate photocatalysts for overall water splitting based on one- and two-step photoexcitation systems.

    • Shanshan Chen
    • , Tsuyoshi Takata
    •  &  Kazunari Domen


  • Nature | Comment

    Decades of experience must inform future initiatives, urge Gabriel Chan and colleagues.

    • Gabriel Chan
    • , Anna P. Goldstein
    • , Amitai Bin-Nun
    • , Laura Diaz Anadon
    •  &  Venkatesh Narayanamurti
  • Nature | Comment

    Artificial intelligence can speed up research into new photovoltaic, battery and carbon-capture materials, argue Edward Sargent, Alán Aspuru-Guzikand colleagues.

    • Phil De Luna
    • , Jennifer Wei
    • , Yoshua Bengio
    • , Alán Aspuru-Guzik
    •  &  Edward Sargent
  • Nature Reviews Chemistry | Review Article

    The tunable bandgap of perovskites and their combination in multi-junction solar cells can afford highly efficient photovoltaic technologies. This Review reports the latest developments in tandem multi-junction perovskite solar cells and discusses prospects for this technology to achieve energy conversion efficiencies well beyond those attained by silicon-based cells.

    • Giles E. Eperon
    • , Maximilian T. Hörantner
    •  &  Henry J. Snaith
  • Nature Reviews Chemistry | Perspective

    The technological progress made since the industrial revolution has brought with it one of our greatest challenges: how to power our world while also minimizing environmental harm. This Perspective highlights the important role that quantum chemistry has in sustainable energy research.

    • Johannes M. Dieterich
    •  &  Emily A. Carter

Policy on the water-energy nexus

  • Nature Energy | Article

    Hydropower is critical to eastern and southern Africa but it is at risk from climate variability. Conway et al. examine river basins and rainfall variability to explore potential hydropower disruption for present and planned generation sites, highlighting the risks to supply and their spatial interlinkages.

    • Declan Conway
    • , Carole Dalin
    • , Willem A. Landman
    •  &  Timothy J. Osborn
  • Nature Energy | Article

    Biofuels offer a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels but may need large land-use changes. This study combines ecosystem and economic models to explore land-use allocation and greenhouse gas emissions for a 32-billion-gallon Renewable Fuel Standard in the US.

    • Tara W. Hudiburg
    • , WeiWei Wang
    • , Madhu Khanna
    • , Stephen P. Long
    • , Puneet Dwivedi
    • , William J. Parton
    • , Melannie Hartman
    •  &  Evan H. DeLucia
  • Nature Energy | Article

    Climate change affects the availability of water for cooling thermoelectric power plants, causing curtailments in generation. This study models how future changes in water availability due to climate and water usage impacts power generation across the EU, and assesses different adaptation strategies.

    • Paul Behrens
    • , Michelle T. H. van Vliet
    • , Tijmen Nanninga
    • , Brid Walsh
    •  &  João F. D. Rodrigues
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    A Low Carbon Fuel Standard seeks to regulate indirect land use change by including its related carbon emissions in the carbon intensity of biofuels. Khanna et al. show the economic cost of abatement achieved by including this factor is much larger than the social cost of carbon.

    • Madhu Khanna
    • , Weiwei Wang
    • , Tara W. Hudiburg
    •  &  Evan H. DeLucia