What does water and electricity mean to you?

By Natalie Jonk


When you think of water and electricity, the first thought that comes to your mind is may be one of danger, high voltage, maybe even death!  Or perhaps if you are interested in sustainable energy you may think of thought of underwater turbines, wave generated electricity and maybe for a small selection of you, you might have even thought about biolayers creating electricity at the mouths of rivers.  For those who knew thought biolayers….we’re impressed. Good knowledge!

In movies, unfortunate incidents have been shown involving dropping hair dryers in the bath.  Indeed myth busters from discover.com tested whether electric appliance in the bath would actually kill you…

In their robust scientific experiment a bath dummy was rigged up to an amperage meter to measure the amount of current running through it.  They investigated the risk of death when household items that may fall in the bath due to unforeseen circumstances such as a television, a radio and a hairdryer.  The experiment protocol stipulated that at 6 milliamps of jolts, the dummy would be pronounced dead.

Following analysing their results with great scrutiny they concluded that “the radio, television and hair dryer without a ground fault interrupter all electrocuted the drenched dummy, confirming the household appliance myth.”  Thankfully for those who perhaps like to watch tv or listen to the radio in the bath, many modern devices have a ground fault interrupter! Or if you really want to play it safe and avoid all risk of electrocuting yourself in the bath you could you go upmarket and get a snazzy screen inbuilt to your premium bath tub….

Anyway, we digress! What we really want to tell you about is a group of young Dutch scientists who are on a quest to make harnessing electricity from “blue energy” as they call it the next big thing!

They plan to capture the osmotic pressure that results from salt water mixing with fresh water at the mouths of rivers and generate it into electricity using all sorts of weird and wonderful techniques…

“If blue energy plants were to be placed at all river estuaries, it has been calculated that they could generate as much as 7% of our global energy demand.”  claim the scientists.  They also claim,  “blue energy  to be potentially one of the best sustainable energy resources in the world. Therefore, additional research is required to improve efficiency, sustainability and reduce costs of blue energy generation.”

At the moment, the cost of blue energy is still relatively high, however this dream team hope to reduce the cost by creating a robust biolayer that can remain intact even with the high voltage generated from the osmotic pressure from the salt water mixing with fresh.  And, with a biolayer made from bacillus subtilise, which has a reputation amongst scientific communities for forming particularly well formed biolayers there surely could be a good chance of creating a robust biolayer with the scientists experimental protocol…(if you don’t know what a biolayer is we explain it here)

The team at Groningen are doing their experiments not only to advance research in the field of blue energy but also to win a synthetic biology competition called iGEM which will be hosted in Boston. At the competiton scientists from all over the world enter their experiments and the Groningen team want to win (I mean who doesn’t).  Their experiments are not only exciting from a much needed sustainable energy research perspective, by supporting their research you will be supporting a wide team of scientists from computer scientists, biologists, mathematicians, designers who are all having the opportunity to work together on this exciting project. We at Walacea are pretty excited by this research as rarely in academia do you see such an eclectic mix of skills all working on the same thing.  This dynamic team are surely destined for great things! Yes, some of their experiments may fail but with the broad range of skills and ideas they must have in their midst we are routing for them and we love their mission!!

Find out more about blue energy and sign up for cool perks on their excellent campaign page! 


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