More than 20% of energy consumed is lost in the form of waste heat, mostly generated by industrial activity. Increasing electricity costs and environmental regulations have prompted industries to find solutions to minimize or recycle waste energy. But today, no technology is able to make use of low-temperature heat, below 150°C, at an industrial scale. This project develops an innovative system able to convert low-temperature heat (as low as 30°C) into electricity. This technology will provide industries a sustainable and profitable solution to recycle their waste heat and produce electricity.
Osmosis is a natural phenomenon occurring between two solutions of different concentrations (for example salted water and pure water) separated by a membrane. A flow of water is naturally induced from the low to the high concentrated solution, which tends to equilibrate the concentrations on each side of the membrane. The mechanical energy of this flow can be converted into electrical energy using a turbine and an alternator. This technique is called Pressure Retarded Osmosis (PRO). PRO is very promising technique, and attracted investors such as the U.S. Department of Energy. Current systems based on PRO are limited in the amount of power generated, which compromises their commercialization.
What is special about the project?
OsmoBlue overcomes the current limitations of PRO using a simple and novel approach. OsmoBlue´s team addresses the technical limitations of PRO with innovative solutions, taking advantage of their expertise in material science and fluidics. This patented technology will generate more power than the current PRO systems, constituting a real advance. Moreover, unlike some of the existing osmosis-based systems, it can also transform low-temperature heat into electricity.
OsmoBlue's patented technology converts low-temperature heat, as low as 30°C, into electricity. The system is scalable and can produce hundreds of kW to tens of MW of electricity. OsmoBlue products will help large industries such as cement kilns, paper and pulp industries, chemical plants, incinerators and thermal power plants, save money and reduce their carbon footprint, while improving their corporate image.
During the course of this project, the company OsmoBlue Sàrl has first successfully validated the proof-of-concept of the technology. A bench-scale device has been built validating the key elements of the technology: i) heat harvesting process; ii) osmotic process for electricity production. In parallel to the experimental work, a numerical model has been developed, validating the energy balance of the engine. It has been estimated that the efficiency of the osmotic engine would be between 30 and 50% of the maximum theoretical thermal efficiency. These numbers compare well to traditional steam engines, reaching up to 50% of their maximum theoretical efficiency. This numerical model is now used as a tool for sizing the equipments of the engine. OsmoBlue is currently finalizing the fabrication of a fully functional lab prototype that will produce electricity from low-temperature heat.
During the course of this project, the OsmoBlue team acquired a deep understanding of the osmotic engine. This expertise opens the way to new development paths to be explored in order to constantly improve the performance of this innovative heat engine.
OsmoBlue raised interest of industrial partners interested in supporting further the development of the engine at an industrial scale. OsmoBlue is currently in discussion with several plants (cement plants, paper plants and chemical plants) to develop and build a pilot unit producing 100 kW. This will constitute the next big step towards an industrial product.
None so far
21.12.2013, Winzige Löcher mit grosser Wirkung: Strom mithilfe der Osmose; die neue schulpraxis
21.5.2013, OsmoBlue veut convertir la chaleur à basse température en électricité; Le Temps
17.5.2013, L'innovation qui ouvre de nombreux marchés; L'Agefi
Persons involved in the project
Last update to this project presentation 21.12.2018