Anomalous channel-length dependence in nanofluidic osmotic energy conversion

Liuxuan Cao, Feilong Xiao, Yaping Feng, Wei Wei Zhu, Wenxiao Geng, Jinlei Yang, Xiaopeng Zhang, Ning Li, Wei Guo, Lei Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

91 Citations (Scopus)


Recent advances in materials science and nanotechnology have lead to considerable interest in constructing ion-channel-mimetic nanofluidic systems for energy conversion and storage. The conventional viewpoint suggests that to gain high electrical energy, the longitudinal dimension of the nanochannels (L) should be reduced so as to bring down the resistance for ion transport and provide high ionic flux. Here, counterintuitive channel-length dependence is described in nanofluidic osmotic power generation. For short nanochannels (with length L < 400 nm), the converted electric power persistently decreases with the decreasing channel length, showing an anomalous, non-Ohmic response. The combined thermodynamic analysis and numerical simulation prove that the excessively short channel length impairs the charge selectivity of the nanofluidic channels and induces strong ion concentration polarization. These two factors eventually undermine the osmotic power generation and its energy conversion efficiency. Therefore, the optimal channel length should be between 400 and 1000 nm in order to maximize the electric power, while balancing the efficiency. These findings reveal the importance of a long-overlooked element, the channel length, in nanofluidic energy conversion and provide guidance to the design of high-performance nanofluidic energy devices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1604302
Number of pages7
JournalAdvanced Functional Materials
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • biomimetics
  • energy conversion
  • functional materials
  • ion transport
  • nanofluidics

Cite this