Osmosis used to generate electricity, purify water

Scientists have designed systems to purify water in an energy efficient way and generate electricity using osmosis and low-level heat.

A team from Yale University have designed systems that use the simple process of osmosis to find solutions to two of the world's pressing problems ? water scarcity and growing demand for energy.

Doctoral student Robert McGinnis and Menachem Elimelech, chair of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, designed the systems using "forward osmosis".

Their desalination system works by drawing water from its contaminants through a semi-permeable membrane into a solution of concentrated salts.

The salts can then be removed from the water using low-level heat.

Mr Elimelech said: "The ideal solution is a process that effectively utilises waste heat."

The team has also planned to harness the power of osmosis to generate electricity in a device dubbed the osmotic heat engine.

In this device, the salt solution is pressurised and as the water is drawn in, the extra pressure is released through a turbine.

Their designs show potential to help both mitigate and adapt to climate change as they could cut the amount of carbon dioxide emitted as well as deal with one anticipated consequence of rising temperatures ? increasing water scarcity.

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