Introducing the Salter Sink

The Salter Sink works as a wave powered pump. Waves push hot water into the top of the cylinder, which pumps the water inside down. 

Energy from the sun heats up the surface of the ocean. As that heat irradiates up and fuels storms, they can become ever more dangerous hurricanes. Reducing their destructive potential is possible if we can just cool off the surface of the ocean. Even just one degree centigrade might be the difference between a category 4 or category 5 hurricane. This is a nearly ridiculous notion because of the scale involved. Thousands of square miles of ocean surface might need to be cooled off.

The Salter Sink is a simple idea, with massive potential. Two insights make it very compelling:

Everywhere there is hot water on the surface of the ocean, there is cold water down below.

This makes us think you just need to stir the ocean up a little bit. Of course, that too would take a staggering amount of energy, but…

There is a tremendous amount of energy available – in waves.

Wave energy is often dismissed as impractical to use because it is located far from people (where we need energy). It is also difficult to harness because of the harsh conditions equipment would have to sustain.

The Salter Sink works as a wave powered pump. Waves push hot water into the top of the cylinder, which pumps the water inside down. It comes out the bottom (around 200 meters below) and mixes with colder water. This brings the temperature on the surface down over time. A Salter Sink can move about a gigawatt of thermal energy! It may take thousands of these to protect America’s Gulf region (for example) but we estimate the cost would be much lower than the damage caused by one of these storms.

This concept is delightfully simple and singularly gargantuan. It has captured our imagination here in the lab for a couple years, and we hope lots of other folks will find it interesting as well. This movie illustrates the idea, and we also have a Salter Sink White Paper with more detail.