The source of energy for an osmotic power plant is the difference in salinity (the salt gradient) of two solutions, which
tend to equalize their concentrations. In conventional hydropower plants, the energy from the location (as with storage power plants)
or the combination of kinetic and location energy from large water masses (like in run-of-river power plants) is used.
In contrast, the osmotic power plant uses the hydration energy of the ions of the salts, their hydration shell enlarges.

If fresh and salt water are in contact with each other via a semipermeable membrane, pure water diffuses through
the membrane to the salt water side (osmosis).
With a salt content of 3.5 % in seawater, an osmotic pressure of a round 28 bar results at a temperature of 10 °C
compared to fresh water.

The technical realization requires special membranes that efficiently retain salts, but at the same time are well permeable to water.
Due to the lack of suitable membranes, the principle could not be implemented in the 1970s.
Since the mid−1990s there have been new approaches to develop suitable membranes from polymers.

The special thing about the new BNNT membrane is that it is just three atoms thick. And it lets positively charged particles through
a tiny pore, while the negatively charged ions are mostly repelled.

The potential of the new system is great. A membrane the size of one square meter could produce one megawatt of power.
That is roughly as much as 50,000 energy−saving lamps use.

Osmotic power plants that use this membrane could, according to the scientists, generate up to 2.6 terawatts of electricity per year
if the entire 7,000 cubic kilometers of fresh water that flows into the oceans annually were used to generate electricity.
This corresponds roughly to the electricity production of 2,000 average nuclear power plants.

 

 

 

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