Researchers have developed a new device that uses a natural protein to create electricity from moisture in the air. They say it could soon be used commercially to power smartwatches and mobile phones.
With an increasing need to speed up the transition to renewable energy, researchers from the University of Massachusetts have been looking at new ways to generate electricity that is more reliable than solar or wind power.
The researchers have created a new device called Air-gen that uses a thin film of protein nanowires with electrodes to absorb water vapour from the atmosphere.
By combining the electric conductivity of the protein nanowires the film establishes a condition that generates an electrical current between the two electrodes.
According to the researchers, this new technology is non-polluting, renewable and low-cost.
The researchers also state that Air-gen has significant advances over wind and solar energy because it does not require any specific weather conditions, it can be used anywhere, even areas with extremely low humidity such as the Sahara desert.
The current generation of Air-gen devices are able to power small electronics, but the researchers hope that soon they will be able to develop patches that can power electronic devices such as smartwatches or fitnesses monitors.
They also hope to develop a way to use Air-gen devices to charge mobile phones, which they hope will eliminate periodic charging.
Electrical engineer Jun Tao said: ‘We are literally making electricity out of thin air. The Air-gen generates clean energy 24/7.
‘The ultimate goal is to make large-scale systems. 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.
‘Once we get to an industrial scale, I fully expect that we can make large systems that will make a major contribution to sustainable energy production.’
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