Osmosis is seen as a promising source of renewable energy, with the potential for technology deployed in river estuaries where fresh water from rivers meets the salt water of the sea. Unlike solar panels that require adequate sunlight, or wind turbines that require adequate wind, osmotic energy can be produced any time of day or night.
Pilot projects of harnessing osmotic power have taken place in Europe, Japan and the U.S., using fragile membranes that deliver low yields of electricity.
The potential of the new system is huge, with the researchers calculating that a 1m² membrane would be able to produce enough electricity to power 50,000 standard energy-saving light bulbs.
Before this technology can be scaled up in this way, however, scientists need to find a way to make relatively uniform pores.