Extraction of energy from small thermal differences near room temperature using capacitive membrane technology

Extracting electric energy from small temperature differences is an emerging field in response to the transition toward sustainable energy generation. We introduce a novel concept for producing electricity from small temperature differences by the use of an assembly combining ion exchange membranes and porous carbon electrodes immersed in aqueous electrolytes. Via the temperature differences, we generate a thermal membrane potential that acts as a driving force for ion adsorption/desorption cycles within an electrostatic double layer, thus converting heat into electric work. We report for a temperature difference of 30 °C a maximal energy harvest of ~2 mJ/m2, normalized to the surface area of all the membranes.