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  • Logan Young

Rust, now part of our new renewable energy sources.

Updated: Sep 26, 2019

Photo by David Boca on Unsplash

We often look at rust as a bad thing, but a recent study made by Caltech & Northwestern University says it may have a role in sustainable energy. Let’s see what they have to say & where we may see this type of energy in the near future.

How does it work?

Ultra thin rust & salt water. Iron oxide which is known as rust is put into a consistent thin layer about 10 thousand times thinner than a human hair ,over a surface(Grossman, 2019).

Once the saltwater is applied, the ions in the saltwater attract themselves to the electrons beneath the layer of iron oxide, as the saltwater flows it creates a drag that generates an electrical current(California Institute of Technology, 2019). It generates varying amounts of millivolts depending on the scale of the surface.

“For perspective, plates having an area of 10 square meters would generate a few kilowatts per hour, enough to sustain a standard home.” (California Institute of Technology, 2019)

Where can we see this in the near future?

Since this type of energy is practically brand new, it’s unlikely for you to find this on any large scale. But it is believed we could see it in low powered devices in the near future(Velasco, 2019).

How big can this type of energy scale?

At first they looked at graphene which can also produce an electrical current but the requirements are further than iron oxide which is pretty easy to aquire. The scale of this type of energy is basically limitless as long as there are more benefits than consequences with the upscale.

Who thought rust could have such a benefit to it! Time will tell if we see this as a practice in our journey towards complete sustainable energy. What do you think? Do you think we should look more into this or should we be more focused on what’s working now?


Velasco, Emily. “Ultra-Thin Layers of Rust Generate Electricity from Flowing Water.” Home, 2019,

Grossman, David. “Could Rust Be a New Source of Renewable Energy?” Popular Mechanics, Popular Mechanics, 30 July 2019,

California Institute of Technology. "Ultra-thin layers of rust generate electricity from flowing water." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 July 2019. <>.