In this article, ion selective nanochannels are studied to generate electric power from concentration gradient by reverse electrodialysis. When nanochannels bring into contact with aqueous solution, the surface of nanochannels acquires charges from ionization, ion adsorption, and ion dissolution. These surface charges draw counter-ions toward the surface and repel co-ions away. Therefore, when an electrolyte concentration gradient is applied to nanochannels, counter-ions are transported through nanochannels much more easily than co-ions, which results in a net charge migration of ions. Gibbs free energy of mixing, which forces ion diffusion, thus can be converted into electrical energy by using ion-selective nanochannels. Silica nanochannels with heights of 26 nm and 80 nm fabricated by glass-silicon anodic bonding were used in this study. We experimentally investigated the power generation from these nanochannels placed between two potassium chloride solutions with various combinations of concentrations. The power generation per unit channel volume increases when the concentration gradient increases, while it decreases as channel height decreases. The highest power density measured is 26 kW/m3. Our data also indicates that the efficiency of energy conversion and the ion selectivity increase with a decrease of concentrations and channel height. The best efficiency obtained is 24%. Compared with ion-selective membranes, nanochannels promise more reliable operation since they are readily compatible with standard CMOS process and do not shrink and swell in response to their environment. Power generation from concentration gradient in ion selective nanochannels could be used in a variety of applications, including micro batteries and micro power generators.

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