Salinity Gradient Energy

It takes a tremendous amount of energy (or pressure) to produce fresh water from salt water, for example by reverse osmosis or distillation. However, it is possible to obtain energy from naturally occurring or engineered salinity gradients. For example, the thermodynamic energy difference that could be gained between seawater and fresh water (river water) is equivalent to water flowing over a dam 250 meters tall. Researchers at Penn State are investigating new ways to capture this energy as electricity. The main researchers working in this area in Environmental Engineering at Penn State are Professors Gorski, Kumar and Logan. These faculty are also working with Professor Michael Hickner in the Department of Materials Science and EngineeringProfessor Kumar’s main appointment is in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and Professors Hickner and Logan also have courtesy appointments in Chemical Engineering as well.

For research activities in this area, see the research website for these faculty here.



The Penn State Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, established in 1881, is internationally recognized for excellence in the preparation of undergraduate and graduate engineers through the integration of education, research, and leadership.

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

212 Sackett Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-1408

Phone: 814-863-3084