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Flowing Salt Water Over This Super-Hydrophobic Surface Can Generate Electricity

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  • Flowing Salt Water Over This Super-Hydrophobic Surface Can Generate Electricity

    By Alton Parrish (Reporter)

    Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a super-hydrophobic surface that can be used to generate electrical voltage. When salt water flows over this specially patterned surface, it can produce at least 50 millivolts. The proof-of-concept work could lead to the development of new power sources for lab-on-a-chip platforms and other microfluidic devices. It could someday be extended to energy harvesting methods in water desalination plants, researchers said.

    A team of researchers led by Prab Bandaru, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, and first author Bei Fan, a graduate student in Bandaru’s research group, published their work in the Oct. 3 issue of Nature Communications.

    The main idea behind this work is to create electrical voltage by moving ions over a charged surface. And the faster you can move these ions, the more voltage you can generate, explained Bandaru.

    Bandaru’s team created a surface so hydrophobic that it enables water (and any ions it carries) to flow faster when passing over. The surface also holds a negative charge, so a rapid flow of positive ions in salt water with respect to this negatively charged surface results in an electrical potential difference, creating an electrical voltage.

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