Tapping ocean energy with nanomaterials


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Australia (Commonwealth Union) – The requirement for new forms of energy has become the need of the hour with rising inflation putting a strain on energy prices worldwide. An often left out source of energy is ocean energy, which covers over 70% of the surface of the earth, which could make it the ideal source for renewable clean energy, for which Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) researchers hope to capitalize on.

Findings published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, has IFM researchers reveal how new advanced two-dimensional (2D) nanomaterial membrane technology could enhance the blue energy harvesting processes. Blue energy harvesting is a renewable energy utilizing the salt content difference between river water and seawater to produce electricity.

Ocean energy consists of five forms, including tidal, water waves, ocean currents, temperature gradients and salinity gradient energy, paving the way for possible alternative, limitless energy resource according to Weiwei Lei, an Associate Professor leading the sustainable energy generation project at IFM.

“Therefore, harvesting ocean energy through artificial devices has attracted tremendous interest. In particular, salinity gradient energy, also called “osmotic energy” or “blue energy”, provides significant promise for the development of renewable energy,” he said. “With the development of nanotechnology and 2D nanomaterials, novel 2D nanomaterials’ membranes with nanopores and nanochannels were designed for blue energy harvesting.”

Associate Professor Lei and his researchers introduced a strategy to optimize the nanochannels within the 2D nanomaterial membranes to collect higher amounts of energy via greater volumes of water. To carry this out researchers made nanochannels using graphene oxide nanosheets. The new strategy enhanced the energy production to amounts capable of powering a small electronic device.

The new strategy of membrane design applying these oxidative fragments to decorate the nanochannels gives an alternative and simple method for many applications that can make use of the ionic charges, like ion exchange.


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