Oceans Could Serve as Giant Batteries

While we might not be able to drink all that ocean water, maybe we could do with some extra electricity. A new paper released by Nano Letters posits that electricity can be generated by the ocean's saltiness.

When salty ocean water and freshwater meet at a river's mouth, the difference in salinity causes an exchange of ions, and naturally creates energy. The same exchange of ions occurs in a battery, except that nature does not have electrodes necessary to capture the resulting electrons and convert it into usable electric power.

The Nano Letters paper’s “mixing entropy battery” process hopes to fix that problem by capturing the energy using manganese dioxide and sliver electrodes. With a constant cycling of freshwater and saltwater at 40 cubic meters per second, the proposed device could theoretically generate up to 100 megawatts. Now, that's not a lot of power compared to the hydro-turbine numbers we are used to seeing at Niagara Falls (2 terawatts) or the potential power we could generate from the Mississippi, but a little more renewable energy is better than nothing.

[Nano Letters via Ars Technica / Photo: DieselDemon on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)]

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