Harvesting energy from Scottish water streams at different concentration using Reverse Electrodialysis

Scotland is leading the effort in the transition to a more circular decarbonised economy and renewables are already generating 59.4 % of the total Scottish electricity requirements [1]. With a vision of complete decarbonisation of the energy system by 2030, novel sources of non-intermittent renewable energy are required to achieve the Scottish Government Energy and Climate goals and deliver cheap electricity to the consumer. In this context, Reverse Electrodialysis (RED) can play a significant role and its potential in Scotland in particular in relation to local smart energy systems for remote communities located off-grid needs to be evaluated.

RED is a Salinity Gradient Power (SGP) technology that can generate electricity from water sources exploiting the reversible mixing of streams of different salinities as seawaters and river waters [2]. A recent review has estimated the potential of SGP in 625 TWh year-1 globally that would correspond to 3% of global electricity consumption [3].

A RED cell consists of channels separated by membranes where water with different salts concentration is circulated. The difference in chemical potential between the different salinity streams is exploited allowing the selective transport of ions through the ion exchange membranes (IEMs) and then converting it into an electric current at the electrodes.

RED is a relatively new technology that can provide non-intermittent electricity to remote communities as it is particularly suitable for small applications. The technology has been already demonstrated with real water streams in the Netherlands by the Blue Energy project carried out by a consortium of one research institution (Wetsus) and several industrial companies (namely REDSTACK, Fujifilm, Hak, Alliander, Magneto Special Anodes) [4]. The project successfully opened in November 2014 the first RED plant with a final nominal capacity 50 kW of energy using freshwater from Lake IJssel and saltwater of the North Sea available at Afsluitdijk, The Netherlands.

Current research is focussed on converting the proposed concepts in a competitive application and the supervisory team is involved in a Horizon2020 funded project – RED-Heat to Power [5] – that looks at the optimisation of RED for closed-loop systems.

This project will focus on the development of membranes used in the RED process.

[1] Scottish Energy Strategy: the future of energy in Scotland, Scottish Government, January 2017.
[2] Sustainable Energy from Salinity Gradients, Edited by A. Cipollina and G. Micale, 2016,  Woodhead Publishing.
[3] Alvarez-Silva et al., Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 2016, 60, 1387.
[4]  http://www.redstack.nl/en/projects/36/afsluitdijk-project
[5]  http://www.red-heat-to-power.eu/

Further Information: 

Closing Date: 

Friday, September 7, 2018
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Principal Supervisor: 

Dr Maria-Chiara Ferrari

Assistant Supervisor: 

Prof Stefano Brandani

Eligibility: 

Minimum entry qualification - an Honours degree at 2:1 or above (or International equivalent) in a relevant science or engineering discipline, possibly supported by an MSc Degree. Further information on English language requirements for EU/Overseas applicants.

Funding: 

Applications are welcomed from self-funded students, or students who are applying for scholarships from the University of Edinburgh or elsewhere.

Further information and other funding options.

Informal Enquiries: