Osmosis-Based Pressure Generation: Dynamics and Application

>This paper describes osmotically-driven pressure generation in a membrane-bound compartment while taking into account volume expansion, solute dilution, surface area to volume ratio, membrane hydraulic permeability, and changes in osmotic gradient, bulk modulus, and degree of membrane fouling. The emphasis lies on the dynamics of pressure generation; these dynamics have not previously been described in detail. Experimental results are compared to and supported by numerical simulations, which we make accessible as an open source tool. This approach reveals unintuitive results about the quantitative dependence of the speed of pressure generation on the relevant and interdependent parameters that will be encountered in most osmotically-driven pressure generators. For instance, restricting the volume expansion of a compartment allows it to generate its first 5 kPa of pressure seven times faster than without a restraint. In addition, this dynamics study shows that plants are near-ideal osmotic pressure generators, as they are composed of many small compartments with large surface area to volume ratios and strong cell wall reinforcements. Finally, we demonstrate two applications of an osmosis-based pressure generator: actuation of a soft robot and continuous volume delivery over long periods of time. Both applications do not need an external power source but rather take advantage of the energy released upon watering the pressure generators.

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Source URL:http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0091350