A team of scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have come up with a clever device they dubbed the “air-gen,” which can generate electricity from moisture found in air. According to the team, their discovery could revolutionize green energy by offering some key advantages over other renewable source including sun or wind energy.
“We are literally making electricity out of thin air,” electrical engineer Jun Yao, co-author of the paper appearing in the journal Nature today, said in a statement. “The Air-gen generates clean energy 24/7.”
A naturally occurring microbe called Geobacter produces electrically conductive protein nanowires. By tapping these nanowires using electrodes, the device can effectively generate an electrical current from moisture — enough to power small electronics in its current form.
The scientists suspect the charge is caused by protons diffusing along the nanowires, as noted in their paper.
“A maintained moisture gradient, which is fundamentally different to anything seen in previous systems, explains the continuous voltage output from our nanowire device,” they wrote.
But before scaling up their current design, the team is planning to develop small air-gen “patches” that can power wearable devices or smartphones.
“The ultimate goal is to make large-scale systems,” Yao said in the statement. “For example, the technology might be incorporated into wall paint that could help power your home. Or, we may develop stand-alone air-powered generators that supply electricity off the grid.”
READ MORE: Scientists Built a Genius Device That Generates Electricity ‘Out of Thin Air’ [Science Alert]
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