Can We Use Salt Water Energy Without Harming Our Environment?
Many of the greatest inventions are accidental. A scientist drops a liquid and discovers the reaction creates a new form of glue or a material that holds great promise for industry.
An experimental solution left too long yields an unexpected reaction which leads to a product more important than the original solution was expected to produce.
In 2007, cancer researcher John Kanzius was trying to desalinate seawater by using a radio frequency generator he had developed as a cancer treatment. What he found was that seawater would burn as long as it was exposed to the radio frequencies.
Kanzius was not trying to produce energy. His goal was to desalinate seawater using a generator he had developed to treat cancer - and the frequencies caused a flash burn in the test tube.
Experimenting a bit further, Kanzius was able to make the test tube burn like a candle for as long as he wanted. When the heat produced became hot enough to melt the test tube, Kanzius realized the potential of his experiment.
Other scientist quickly proved the experiment and provided demonstrations and research results to leading journals. The news media quickly picked on the newest research as a potential alternative fuel.
Seawater is abundant on the earth and the thought of creating a usable fuel source from seawater was exciting. The media played it up as a potential breakthrough in alternative energy.
Immediately, other scientists were fascinated by the thought of creating energy from saltwater and whether the energy produced would be sufficient to provide power for machinery or cars.
To do that, the process would need to reach a temperature of more than 300 degrees F. Plans were made to obtain funding form government agencies such as the Department of Energy and Department of Defense.
In practice, the radio frequencies used weakened the bonds holding elements that make up saltwater. Breaking the bonds released energy in the form of hydrogen. What was most exciting was the ability to keep the fire going as long as the salt water was exposed to the radio waves.
Possible - but Perhaps not Practical
The scientific community was understandably skeptical when it was announced that energy in the form of heat could be obtained from common seawater. The replication of the experiment provided proof of energy conversion yet many questions still remain to be answered.
A usable alternative energy source must use less in conventional power than it creates in alternative fuel. Otherwise, the energy source is only an experiment with no practical application. That has been a problem for sea water energy production.
Currently, the frequency generator that breaks the bonds in seawater uses more power in operation than is created in salt water energy. To be useful in the real world, salt water energy must be an energy-positive process. No one has claimed this is the case.
Another question is what happens to the other substances contained in seawater. Salt water energy uses the hydrogen in seawater but what happens if chloride is released in the process?
What about sodium, sulfates, etc? These are present in sea water and its possible releasing them to the environment could be hazardous to humans and to wildlife and plant matter.
Still Being Done
The research into salt water energy is still being done today. However, the wild claims of the future of this energy source have disappeared as the media has move on to more recent developments.
There may be time in the future when much of our energy is derived from the sea but it may be far into the future before the technology is developed.
Questions of safety and environmental concerns will have to be addressed even if a way is found to make salt water energy an energy positive process.
Other concerns revolve around effect on sea creature and plants that rely on the seas to survive. Despite the huge promise of salt water energy, it's not yet clear we can use energy from the sea without harm to the environment.