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Clean energy from brine

An EU-funded initiative is investigating the use of clean and low-cost energy production based on the use of brine or seawater.

The 'Reverse electrodialysis alternative power production' (REAPOWER) project exploits the difference in salinity between two streams of water to generate electricity. This process is known as salinity gradient power - reverse electrodialysis (SGP-RE).

Scientific literature indicates that performance can be increased 10-fold by using brine and sea or brackish water to create the salinity gradient rather using seawater with freshwater. REAPOWER is therefore developing the necessary main materials such as membrane stacks, components and tools and collating data to enable commercial application.

Project partners are working closely together to develop new low-cost membranes. Efforts focused on creating thinner membranes with reduced resistance. Adhesives were tested for gluing the membranes and spacers together to produce a leak-free replaceable stack. The new, innovative stack performed well in tests with the developed membranes under different operating conditions.

Researchers also conducted a comprehensive review of the redox processes and electrode materials to select the best option for each application.

Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) were used to study the system performance and investigate the effect of different parameters on the efficiency of the SGP-RE process. Mathematical models were created for the basic principles behind the operation of the stack. Predictions were compared with experimental data in order to begin validation of the model. The CFD and mathematical modelling results were used to develop a tool for simulating the operation of the laboratory-scale SGP-RE stack.

The REAPOWER system has enormous potential to produce cheap electricity and will contribute to the development of a strong scientific and technical base in this energy research sector. This work will help Europe to become a world leader in SGP-RE technology and promote EU's knowledge economy.

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