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Keywords:

  • bioinspired materials;
  • concentration gradient;
  • energy harvesting;
  • nanodevice;
  • nanostructures

Abstract

Inspired by biological systems that have the inherent skill to generate considerable bioelectricity from the salt content in fluids with highly selective ion channels and pumps on cell membranes, herein, a fully abiotic single-pore nanofluidic energy-harvesting system that efficiently converts Gibbs free energy in the form of a salinity gradient into electricity is demonstrated. The maximum power output with the individual nanopore approaches ∼26 pW. By exploiting parallelization, the estimated power density can be enhanced by one to three orders over previous ion-exchange membranes. A theoretical description is proposed to explain the power generation with the salinity-gradient-driven nanofluidic system. Calculation results suggest that the electric-power generation and its efficiency can be further optimized by enhancing the surface-charge density (up to 100 mC m−2) and adopting the appropriate nanopore size (between 10 and 50 nm). This facile and cost-efficient energy-harvesting system has the potential to power biomedical tiny devices or construct future clean-energy recovery plants.