This letter presents a conceptual mechanical-to-electric energy harvesting mechanism, in which an electrolytic flow is driven through a nanoporous electrode to perturb the interfacial electrochemical equilibrium and generate voltage. Using an electrochemical analysis coupled with molecular simulations, we demonstrate that both flow velocity and nanopore size have prominent effects on the structural and electrochemical properties of nanoconfined electrolytes. By first-order approximation, the energy conversion efficiency is found to be promising, and strategies for further improvements are suggested. A preliminary experiment is carried out to validate that the electrolytic flow in nanopores can cause significant energy generation.
This work was sponsored by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (11172231), the World Class University program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (R32-2008-000-20042-0), DARPA (W91CRB-11-C-0112), and the National Science Foundation (CMMI0643726). L.L. acknowledges financial support from Utah State University and the Space Dynamics Lab.