Energy conversion via metal nanolayers

Mavis D. Boamah, Emilie H. Lozier, Jeongmin Kim, Paul E. Ohno, Catherine E. Walker, Thomas F. Miller, Franz M. Geiger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Current approaches for electric power generation from nanoscale conducting or semi-conducting layers in contact with moving aqueous droplets are promising as they show efficiencies of around 30 percent, yet, even the most successful ones pose challenges regarding fabrication and scaling. Here, we report stable, all-inorganic single-element structures synthesized in a single step that generate electrical current when alternating salinity gradients flow along its surface in a liquid flow cell. 10 nm to 30 nm thin nanolayers of iron, vanadium, or nickel produce several tens of mV and several microA cm-2 at aqueous flow velocities of just a few cm s-1. The principle of operation is strongly sensitive to charge-carrier motion in the thermal oxide nano-overlayer that forms spontaneously in air and then self terminates. Indeed, experiments suggest a role for intra-oxide electron transfer for Fe, V, and Ni nanolayers, as their thermal oxides contain several metal oxidation states, whereas controls using Al or Cr nanolayers, which self-terminate with oxides that are redox inactive under the experimental conditions, exhibit dramatically diminished performance. The nanolayers are shown to generate electrical current in various modes of application with moving liquids, including sliding liquid droplets, salinity gradients in a flowing liquid, and in the oscillatory motion of a liquid without a salinity gradient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - Jul 30 2019


  • Electron transfer
  • Inorganic nanomaterials
  • Solid:liquid interface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Energy conversion via metal nanolayers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this