Discovery of new way to generate electricity means batteries could be
powered by water
By Charles Arthur, Technology Editor
20 October 2003
The battery of the future could be powered by nothing but water following
the discovery of the first entirely new way to generate electricity in more
than 160 years.
Though hydro-electric uses water to drive turbines to generate electricity,
the technique found by two Canadian scientists is the first to convert water
directly into electricity. The last new forms of electricity discovered was
solar power and proton exchange membranes in 1839.
Initial applications could be mobile phones and other electronic devices
that use rechargeable batteries, but Larry Kostiuk and Daniel Kwok,
researchers at the University of Alberta who made the discovery, think that,
in time, it could even be used for full-scale power generation. The "water
battery" would be non-polluting, non-toxic and completely portable. And it
could be ready for commercial application before the end of the decade. The
discovery uses the movement of water through microscopic channels to
generate electricity by using just a hand-operated syringe, some water and a
piece of glass 1cm in diameter and 3mm long. It is a breakthrough
application of nanotechnology, the science of molecule-sized artefacts.
And it was also a complete accident, caused by Dr Kostiuk's decision, after
he was appointed head of the university's department of engineering, to
discover what his colleagues were doing. One of those was Dr Kwok.
"How long did we work on it? Oh boy, it's embarrassing," said Dr Kostiuk,
who normally works in the field of combustion chemistry. "It's not like we
laboured for years. One afternoon I went to visit Daniel, and he was
explaining what he did in electrokinetics [the science of electrical charge
in moving substances such as water]."
Dr Kwok explained how, when water travels over a surface, the ions that it
is made up of "rub" against the solid. That leaves the surface slightly
charged. With water being made up of positive and negative elements, those
with the same charge as the surface are slightly repelled; those with the
opposite charge are attracted. That creates a thin liquid layer which has a
net charge, known as the electric double layer. "So I said, 'If you separate
the charges, then it looks a lot to me like a battery,'" recalled Dr
Kostiuk. At which Dr Kwok abruptly started looking at his work with fresh
eyes. "It derailed my whole afternoon," said Dr Kostiuk. "We spent hours
talking about how you would generate electricity from it."
The work is published today by the Institute of Physics journal, Journal of
Micromechanics and Microengineering.
And might it one day power everything? "You'd need a really big area, like a
coastal region," said Dr Kostiuk. "But then again, I guess, those are
available, aren't they?" For a clean, free form of electricity, the answer
must surely be yes.
Interesting , but I am already bored with text-based versions of that
Could you link me to some real pictures of that invention ?
Yeasterday I visited Renewable Energy Show and for the first time tested
H2 fuel cells.
My wrist watch is mechanically operated and needs no electricity
or manual operation.
And very inaccurate and requires a one a year service if it is a top model
to remain sort of accurate.
Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com ).
Version: 6.0.524 / Virus Database: 321 - Release Date: 07/10/2003
but tell me please how wrist watch with baterries powered by water
will get more accurate ?
Do you really like your GSM or wrist watch to start pissing from time
to time ?
If you can generate energy from water, so generate it from the water in
a pool to warm it before I go to swim.
2 days ago I tested H2 fuel cells and they worked fine.
But I would prefer methanol or even ethanol fuel cells.
Especially on icy days in the winter in the mountaines,
to keep a barrel of ethanol brought by my Bernardine's dog always warm.
H2 is not ready avaliable and an idea to electrolize a water to get H2
first to be burned than in fuel cell makes no sense.
Ethanol is readily avaliable world-wide and makes us already warm,
so ethanol (not methanol) fuel cell is what I am looking for and what
makes me hot even now.
Drink ethanol to get warmed by your own fuel cell from inside
or use ethanol fuel cell to keep you warm from outside.
Have you already tested H2 or methanol/ ethanol fuel cells ?
Yeah, well, plus or minus the 1-micron filters required to get any
sediments out of the water...
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