Producing Electricity from Saltwater
November 21, 2011
School of Engineering, Bengaluru
We live in difficult times. Climate change is making its impact felt world-wide. Yet carbon dioxide emissions keep increasing.
Since the beginning of this year, it is estimated that we pumped some 29,826,627,351 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
This figure is rising alarmingly every second.
When we burn coal to produce electricity, large quantities of carbon dioxide are expelled into our atmosphere.
Everyone is looking for an alternative.
That may be why a simple science experiment demonstrated by Shyam Prasad, Amrita Bengaluru student of B.Tech. (EIE), created a buzz in the local press and media.
Shyam, together with his batchmate B. Srikanth, student of B.Tech. (ECE), made an experimental setup to generate electricity from salt water. Repeated experiments produced enough electricity to light an LED bulb.
The experiment was demonstrated to the Mandal Revenue Officer in the students’ native village, while newspapers and channels such as Eenadu, I News, Maha News and ABM Andhra Jyothi covered the story.
The students estimated that it took them some Rs. 55 to produce 1.30V of electricity.
They explained the details of the experiment. “The electrolysis method was used to produce the electricity from saltwater. Water is comprised of two elements – hydrogen and oxygen. Distilled water is pure and free of salts; thus it is a very poor conductor of electricity. By adding ordinary table salt to distilled water, it becomes an electrolyte solution that can conduct electricity.”
The duo are not the first to conduct this experiment; many science students learn about these principles in their high school.
The large-scale application of this technique to produce electricity has not proved feasible.
Yet this fact has not detered Shyam and Srikanth, who are currently planning to operate a water mill in the canal near their home.
They believe that saltwater could be the best economical energy source for homes and factories. “We could build saltwater power plants alongside our nation’s long coastlines to produce electricity with much less harm to the environment,” they emphasized.
They were inspired to investigate the alternative energy source because the world’s main energy resources, like coal and oil are rapidly depleting.
“More and more people can look into this option in the future to ensure reliable energy supplies to their homes. This would help reduce damaging emissions being added to our atmosphere,” they added.