We’d like to extend our congratulations to a young scientist, Alec Isaacman, who’s been making waves at California’s science fairs with his experiments with osmotic power. Alec’s experiment, which was conducted in a fish tank his friend was no longer using, examined the effect salinity had on the production of osmotic power to determine the best locations in the world to place an osmotic power plant.
The tank was divided into two chambers separated by a ACM5 RO membrane and were filled with equal amounts of water. One side was filled with fresh water and the other side was filled with salt water. Alec then determined the absorption rate of the salt water as it pulled fresh water through the membrane.
The salt water was mixed to represent the three most common salinity levels found in the ocean: Polyhaline (18-29 parts per thousand), Mixoeuhaline (30-39 parts per thousand), and Metahaline (40-49 parts per thousand). Alec predicted that the metahaline water would absorb the most fresh water, and would have the most potential to produce osmotic power.
The fresh water side of the tank was pressurized to 50 PSI with a bicycle pump and, after 20 minutes, the water levels on both sides of the tank were measured to determine how much fresh water was drawn through the membrane. The tank would then be emptied and cleaned for the next test. Five tests were run for each salinity level.
Alec's results ultimately proved his hypothesis. He found, on average, the polyhaline water absorbed 32.1 cubic inches of fresh water, the mixoeuhaline water absorbed 34.4 cubic inches of fresh water and the metahaline water absorbed 37.4 cubic inches of fresh water during the 20 minute intervals.
For determining that steeper salinity gradients have more potential energy, Alec won 1st prize at the Irvine District Science Fair, 2nd place at the Orange County Science Fair and was nominated for the Broadcom MASTERS program. In addition, he won $200 dollars from the Irvine Ranch Water District. Congratulations from Sterlitech, Alec!