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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Emerging Science Note/Water Power

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth’s Jennifer Chu reports on a new development that could create electricity from water.


CURWOOD: Just ahead: the U.S. Senate gets ready to take a stand on global warming. First, this Note on Emerging Science from Jennifer Chu.


CHU: What began as a conversation between two scientists in seemingly unconnected fields may one day end up as a new way to produce energy from water. Daniel Kwok studies electrokinetic phenomena. And Larry Kostiuk studies how energy is created. These two scientists who hail from Alberta, Canada knew that when a liquid meets a solid, the surface of the liquid becomes negatively charged. So they figured: if they pushed water through an extremely tiny tube to get the negative charge at one end, the opposite end of the tube should get a positive charge.

To test their theory the researchers needed a substance with a great many nano-scale tubes running through. So they chose the naturally porous substance clay. Their two-inch long ceramic tube contained up to a million miniscule channels running through it. And when Kwok and Kostiuk pushed highly pressurized water through the channels, they created, as expected, a negative charge at one end of the tube and a positive one at the other end – enough energy to power two small LED light bulbs.

More research needs to be done to figure out the most efficient way to take advantage of this phenomenon. But it could turn out to be another form of small-scale energy production, one that uses existing substances and is virtually non-polluting.

That’s this week’s Note on Emerging Science, I’m Jennifer Chu.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Doves “Words” THE LAST BROADCAST (Capitol – 2002)]



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