Engineers from the University of California have developed a hydrophobic surface that can actually help generate electricity from ocean waves!
Let’s brush up your high school chemistry a bit. The hydrophobic surface holds a negative electrical charge. Now, water acts as either an acid or base and has both hydrogen (H+) and hydrogen peroxide (OH-) ions. As the surface is negatively charged, it attracts the positive ions of the salty ocean water, which move over the surface, creating a potential difference or voltage. The more the speed the ions move with, the higher the voltage generated.
The surface is composed of a silicon wafer and tiny ridges were incised into it. The ridges were filled with synthetic motor oil for lubrication. Saltwater, emulating ocean water, was pumped by a syringe pump over the surface in a microfluidic channel during test runs and the voltage was measured across the ends of the channel. The surface’s hydrophobic nature and the reduced friction with it helped enhance the voltage generated.
“The reduced friction from this surface as well as the consequent electrical interactions helps to obtain significantly enhanced electrical voltage,”
says Bandaru, the lead of the team of researchers.
While this is just a concept right now, it may give away to tremendous opportunities for energy harvesting through renewable methods. Ocean water covers 70% of the planet and these surfaces could hold the key to tapping that energy.