American Chemical Society
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Passive Automatic Switch Relying on Laplace Pressure for Efficient Underwater Low-Gas-Flux Bubble Energy Harvesting

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posted on 2023-02-22, 14:05 authored by Yu Du, Ping Li, Yumei Wen, Zhibin Guan
The buoyancy potential energy contained in bubbles released by subsea geological and biological activities represents a possible in situ energy source for underwater sensing and detection equipment. However, the low gas flux of the bubble seepages that exist widely on the seabed introduces severe challenges. Herein, a passive automatic switch relying on Laplace pressure is proposed for efficient energy harvesting from low-gas-flux bubbles. This switch has no moving mechanical parts; it uses the Laplace-pressure difference across a curved gas–liquid interface in a biconical channel as an invisible “microvalve”. If there is mechanical equilibrium between the Laplace-pressure difference and the liquid-pressure difference, the microvalve will remain closed and prevent the release of bubbles as they continue to accumulate. After the accumulated gas reaches a threshold value, the microvalve will open automatically, and the gas will be released rapidly, relying on the positive feedback of interface mechanics. Using this device, the gas buoyancy potential energy entering the energy harvesting system per unit time can be increased by a factor of more than 30. Compared with a traditional bubble energy harvesting system without a switch, this system achieves a 19.55-fold increase in output power and a 5.16-fold enhancement in electrical energy production. The potential energy of ultralow flow rate bubbles (as low as 3.97 mL/min) is effectively collected. This work provides a new design philosophy for passive automatic-switching control of gas–liquid two-phase fluids, presenting an effective approach for harvesting of buoyancy potential energy from low-gas-flux bubble seepages. This opens a promising avenue for in situ energy supply for subsea scientific observation networks.